The Ford Foundation today announced the appointment of John W. Bernstein as its chief operating officer. Mr. Bernstein will be an officer of the board, serve as treasurer, and oversee operations and finance for the $12 billion foundation. He will succeed Nicholas Gabriel, who will retire in January 2015 after 32 years of distinguished service.
Mr. Bernstein brings to the Ford Foundation over 25 years of experience managing not-for-profit institutions and their financial and operational health and effectiveness. Since 2004, he has served as the first president and chief financial officer of the Leon Levy Foundation, based in New York. With $500 million in assets, the Leon Levy Foundation is dedicated to the arts and humanities, human rights and civil liberties, understanding the ancient world, and neuroscience research. During his tenure, the foundation initiated a $200 million grant establishing the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, a PhD-level graduate school and research facility; renovated a landmarked building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side to house the institute; and created a neuroscience fellowship consortium among five prestigious research institutions in the New York City area.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Bernstein spent more than a decade at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, where he held numerous leadership positions—culminating in the role of senior vice president for institutional development, where he was responsible for a successful $300 million campaign. Mr. Bernstein previously served as vice president for finance at the Garden, managing all financial operations including earned income and the endowment. He started his career in management at the New York Public Library.
“John is an exceptional leader and manager with an incredible array of philanthropic positions in his impressive background,” said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. “We are very fortunate to have someone of his caliber join the foundation in this pivotal role.”
Mr. Bernstein earned his MBA from the Wharton School, with a concentration in finance. He also did his undergraduate work at the University of Pennsylvania, with a combined degree in computer science, economics, and the history and sociology of science, and had the distinction of serving as a Wharton Washington Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution.
“I am thrilled to be joining Darren and the exceptional team he has assembled at this exciting moment in the evolution of the Ford Foundation,” said Bernstein. “I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to create the best possible environment to support the critically important goals of the foundation.”
Mr. Bernstein is an active volunteer in the foundation and cultural communities. He is the longtime president of Ping Chong and Company, a NYC theatre company and is a member of the Rockefeller University Council and its Parents and Science Committee. He currently serves as president of the Foundation Financial Officers Group, a national organization with members representing over 200 of the largest foundations in the country. He will begin his new role in January 2015.