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William Penn Foundation Names Laura Sparks as Executive Director

Tuesday, July 29, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Theresa Jackson
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July 28, 2014

Rebecca Morley
(215) 988-1830 - office
(215) 370-5619 - cell


Foundation accepts resignation of Managing Director
Peter Degnan effective August 31

PHILADELPHIA, PA – July 28, 2014 - The William Penn Foundation today announced it has named Laura Sparks as Executive Director, succeeding Managing Director Peter Degnan. Mr. Degnan recently tendered his resignation effective August 31 for personal reasons, and the Foundation’s Board has accepted his decision to step down.

“On behalf of the Board, I thank Peter for his commitment, energy and contributions to the Foundation’s work,” said William Penn Foundation Board Chairman David Haas. “We are excited to share that Laura Sparks has been named as the Foundation’s Executive Director and will serve as Peter’s successor. She has been invaluable to the Foundation’s grantmaking process, providing innovative thinking, unique expertise, and steadfast commitment to the community. We are confident in her ability to provide an even greater degree of leadership to the Foundation in her new role.”

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.

“I am excited and grateful to have the opportunity to lead the Foundation in its critical work and honored to continue to collaborate with the Haas family and Foundation board to foster greater opportunity in the region,” said Laura Sparks. “It has been one of my greatest professional joys to work with a staff that brings together significant depth of expertise with a passionate commitment to the long-term prosperity of our region. The Foundation's commitment to the region's future is unwavering, and we are poised to continue working with the community to build on the groundwork we’ve laid over the last two years.”

Prior to joining the William Penn Foundation, Laura served as the Director of Development Finance Initiatives at Citi, where she created and implemented community development strategies at local and national levels. In this role, Laura worked with businesses, government, and nonprofits to revitalize neighborhoods through increasing access to capital and housing for those in need. Before joining Citi, Laura was the Senior Vice President for Financial Services at 
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a national nonprofit serving local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the country, where she helped create economic opportunities for low-income individuals.

She has served on a variety of boards and advisory committees, including the Credit Committee and the Capital Formation Committee for Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions focused on improving the lives of low-income people and the urban areas in which they live. Laura earned her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, her M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and her B.A. in Philosophy from Wellesley College.

William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. In partnership with others, the Foundation works to advance opportunity, ensure sustainability, and enable effective solutions. Since inception, the Foundation has made nearly 10,000 grants totaling over $1.6 billion. The Foundation’s assets totaled over $2.2 billion as of December 31, 2013.