William Penn Foundation’s New Leader Quits
Well, that was quick.
Peter Degnan, the managing director of the William Penn Foundation, has resigned his position just six months into the job. He had replaced Jeremy Nowak, who also left the foundation abruptly more than a year before that.
The foundation, in a news release, would say only that Degnan was leaving for “personal reasons” at the end of August. Laura Sparks, the foundation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, is stepping up to the newly retitled role of “executive director” to replace Degnan.
The foundation is a major philanthropic force in Philadelphia — and with the Pew and Annenberg foundations turning their focus outward in recent years, perhaps the major philanthropic force — with an endowment totaling more than $2 billion and annual local grants amounting — by one estimate — to about $80 million a year. In recent years, the foundation has concentrated its efforts on school reform, watershed protection, and promotion of the arts in Philadelphia.
Turmoil in the organization, then, could have a ripple effect throughout the city.
David Haas, the foundation’s board chairman, declined Monday to say exactly when Degnan shared his intention to resign, saying only that it was “within recent weeks.” The board accepted his resignation Monday, he said, and he is not immediately taking another position. Haas also declined to make Degnan available for an interview.
He said Degnan, 55, was leaving for “personal reasons.” Asked whether the phrase meant reasons in his personal or in his professional life, Haas declined to say.
The foundation’s news release describes Sparks’ background:
Laura Sparks joined the Foundation in 2012 and most recently served as the Foundation’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, the senior executive responsible for all philanthropic investments. In that role, Laura oversaw strategy development, implementation, and operations for the Foundation’s $90 million annual grant budget. Under her guidance, the Foundation launched and refined its new strategic plan, focusing on improvements in urban education for economically disadvantaged children, protection of the water resources serving 15 million people across four states, development of world class urban parks and trails in underserved communities, and cultivation of a vibrant cultural sector. Over the past two years, the Foundation has made 425 grants totaling $204 million to advance these efforts, including 42 grants totaling over $45 million at today’s regularly scheduled board meeting.