Zeke Smith started as the President of the Empire Health Foundation in Spokane, Washington in October 2020. Founded in 2008 as a private health conversion foundation, the Empire Health Foundation stewards philanthropic assets totaling approximately $100 million, investing in ideas and organizations focused on improving access, education, and public policy that promises more equitable health outcomes across the Inland Northwest region of Washington.
Zeke comes to the Empire Health Foundation after almost 30 years working and living in Portland, Oregon. Over that period, he built a career focused on strategic planning, community engagement, and social justice, supported by a strong commitment to equity. This includes tenure as Vice President of Programs for FoodCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to connecting kids to healthy food in schools; Chief Impact Officer of the United Way of the Columbia Willamette, leading the effort to address childhood poverty and systemic inequities across the Portland, Oregon metropolitan region; and as Chief of Staff of Portland Public Schools, a district of almost 50,000 students, supporting strategies that led to an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in achievement gaps for students of color. Additionally, in a volunteer capacity, Zeke was on the governor-appointed Oregon Health Policy Board for 7 years (5 as Chair), an oversight body for the Oregon Health Authority and the entire healthcare system in the state. Across each of these experiences, as well as years of working with local community-based nonprofits, Zeke has been focused on improving the systems that support individuals, families, and communities– particularly focusing on the needs of those whose systems are least often addressed.
Zeke earned his bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He is proud of his Dutch, Indonesian, Oneida, and Osage heritage and lives with his partner, Mari, with whom he has two college-going daughters.