Inside MCF

Marguerite Casey Foundation Welcomes Rami Nashashibi, Carmen Rojas and Jack Thomas to its Board of Directors

January 17, 2018

Brad Wong
By Brad Wong
Content Editor – Equal Voice

From left to right: Rami Nashashibi, Jack Thomas, Carmen Rojas, Jazmin Ramirez

SEATTLE – Marguerite Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy that believes no family should live in poverty, is proud to announce the appointment of a national leader in the Muslim-American community, a Latina advocate applying Silicon Valley best practices to social justice work and an academic who grew up in Alabama but is now a university president in rural Illinois, as new four-year board members.

At its Nov. 12, 2017 meeting, the Foundation’s Board of Directors also named a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient who is an immigration rights leader in Tennessee as a one-year Board Fellow so a young person’s perspective will be at the table at Marguerite Casey Foundation board meetings.

The new Board of Directors and Board Fellow, whose terms start January 2018, are, respectively: Dr. Rami Nashashibi (executive director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network, or IMAN, in Chicago); Dr. Carmen Rojas (CEO of The Workers Lab in Oakland, California); Dr. Jack Thomas (president of Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois) and Jazmin Ramirez, a Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award recipient and board vice president for the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.

“Organizations thrive and grow when there is true community representation and a full understanding of working families of all backgrounds in America,” Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, board chair of Marguerite Casey Foundation, and Luz Vega-Marquis, president and CEO of Marguerite Casey Foundation, said in a joint statement.

“We look forward to working with these impressive leaders and listening to their ideas. They bring diversity of thought, culture, ethnicity, gender and geography. They reflect America in the 21st century. And they embody a deep commitment to nurturing a movement of families advocating on their own behalf for positive change.”

Hrabowski and Vega-Marquis also welcomed Ramirez as the Foundation’s inaugural Board Fellow. She will participate in discussions and site visits at quarterly board meetings held throughout the country.

“Since 2012, Marguerite Casey Foundation has honored young people who are making a positive difference in their communities nationwide with the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors Against Poverty Leadership Award. We’re thrilled Jazmin, an Award recipient, will gain additional leadership experience in philanthropy, community organizing and social justice as our first Board Fellow,” Hrabowski and Vega-Marquis said.

“We know Jazmin’s experience with us will yield lifelong leadership benefits. More diverse youth voices are needed now in philanthropy and national affairs.”

In her application essay, Ramirez wrote about what she learned while working on the Tuition Equality campaign in Tennessee. The campaign calls for undocumented youth in the state to pay local college tuition rates, instead of more expensive out-of-state costs.

It “taught me the power of lifting the voices of undocumented youth and advocating for important social and policy change,” Ramirez said in her essay.

Each full voting board member, Hrabowski and Vega-Marquis said, brings valuable experience to Marguerite Casey Foundation and its mission:

  • Dr. Rami Nashashibi, who received a MacArthur Fellowship in October 2017, has led IMAN on Chicago’s South Side since 1997. He co-founded the organization. IMAN’s initiatives – many of which are rooted in the Muslim faith – in this diverse area of Chicago include a community health center for residents, a Green ReEntry housing and job training program, a fresh produce focus for corner stores in “food deserts” and an embrace of music and cultural arts to support movement building and social justice. Nashashibi earned his doctorate in sociology from The University of Chicago.
  • Dr. Carmen Rojas grew up in an immigrant family in San Jose, California. She started The Workers Lab as an accelerator and place to test and validate self-sustaining and scalable solutions to improve conditions for low-wage workers. The Workers Lab brings together community organizers, economic justice leaders, entrepreneurs, technologists and businesses to work on these solutions. She has served in leadership positions at Living Cities, the Mitchell Kapor Foundation and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Rojas, who was a Fulbright Scholar, earned her doctorate in city and regional planning from the University of California, Berkeley.
  • Dr. Jack Thomas is the 11th president of Western Illinois University, which serves about 10,000 students through a total of more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. He is responsible for the university’s $220 million yearly budget and working with more than 700 faculty members. Under his leadership, Western Illinois University has received honors as the “Best Midwestern College” (The Princeton Review); “Best Regional University” (U.S. News and World Report); and “Military Friendly School” (GI Jobs Magazine). Thomas received his doctorate in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He believes people should be in the business of “making things happen.”

Nashashibi, Rojas and Thomas join fellow Marguerite Casey Foundation board members: Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III (chair and Ph.D.); Patricia Schroeder (vice chair); David Villa (treasurer); Dr. Douglas X. Patino (secretary and Ph.D.); Melody Barnes; Chad Boettcher; Dr. Angela Diaz (M.D.); and Tessie Guillermo.

Thomas is the second university president to join the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Hrabowski, who joined as a founding board member in 2001, serves as president of The University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Marguerite Casey Foundation is an independent grantmaking organization that supports low-income families who are raising their voice and organizing for justice, equity and progress.

Luz Vega-Marquis has led Marguerite Casey Foundation as its president and CEO since it opened in October 2001. She oversees an endowment of roughly $700 million and a yearly grantmaking budget of approximately $35 million. The Foundation works with about 200 community organizations in some of the poorest regions in the United States.

In June 2017, The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted Marguerite Casey Foundation for its strong stewardship of its endowment investments, which earned a nearly 8-percent return in Fiscal 2016. That number outpaced the median return rate of 6 percent for surveyed foundation and endowment funds that have fiscal years ending in December.

Marguerite Casey Foundation Welcomes Rami Nashashibi, Carmen Rojas and Jack Thomas to its Board of Directors