Ridgway H. White ’02 has been named CEO of one of the nation’s leading philanthropic foundations, the Flint, Mich.-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Founded in 1926, the Mott Foundation leverages its $3 billion endowment to propel national and international projects that support civil society, education and the environment as well as initiatives focused in the Flint area. Historically, the foundation has invested resources in lifting up the Flint community, but in the aftermath of the 2014 discovery of lead-tainted public water, Mott redoubled its local presence under White’s leadership.
As president of the foundation at the time, White rallied local, state and national foundations to help the community recover and rise from the water crisis, which he has called his “most important challenge to date.”
White and the Mott Foundation brought together 10 major foundations that committed a total of up to $125 million to help Flint recover and rise from the water crisis. Mott led the way in that pledge, committing up to $100 million over the course of five years. Supporting work in six areas — safe drinking water, health care, early education, nonprofits, community engagement and economic development — the initiative’s end goal is to rebuild the community, with a particular focus on children and families.
White joined the foundation in 2004 as a program assistant on the Flint Area grant-making team. He was named an associate program officer in 2006 and was promoted to program officer in 2009. He also served concurrently as a loaned executive to the Uptown Reinvestment Corporation, a nonprofit focused on revitalizing downtown Flint. In that role, he oversaw the development of more than one million square feet of mixed-use space, paving the way for numerous new businesses and restaurants. In 2011, he was named vice president for special projects at the Mott Foundation and chair of its management working group, before he was named president in 2015. He now serves as the foundation’s fourth CEO.
“For the first decade of my career, I focused on revitalizing my home community of Flint, Michigan,” he says. “Many of these activities included real estate development. I felt that my architectural studies major, combined with core interest areas of economics and urban planning, gave me the perfect background for meeting the challenges of place-based development and urban revitalization.”
White’s interests in these areas and his strong bond with Hobart and William Smith led to the Colleges’ establishment of the Sustainable Community Development minor in the 2013-14 academic year.
Outside the Mott Foundation, White spearheaded a $36 million project to build a state-of-the-art home for the Michigan School for the Deaf and Powers Catholic High School. He currently chairs the National Center for Family Philanthropy and is immediate past chair of the Sloan Museum governing council. He serves on the boards of the Mott Foundation, The C.S. Harding Foundation, Isabel Foundation, United States Sugar Corporation, and Ayablu, a licensee of Burt’s Bees doing business as Burt’s Bees Baby. He is a member of the University of Michigan–Flint’s advisory committee.