President’s Letter

Art Institute of Chicago ▲

James D. Parsons
Former President

One of the greatest benefits of leading a foundation is having the opportunity to learn something new every day.

Note from the Founder:

It is with mixed emotions that I announce our long-time President, James D. Parsons, has decided to step down at the end of 2019.  During the past fifteen years, Jim has been instrumental in helping our Board and staff implement best practices in governance and management, refine the Foundation’s grantmaking strategies and leverage our grantmaking through his leadership in the non-profit sector.  Jim also has demonstrated a commitment to nurturing future generations of leaders, and I am pleased to announce that Christy Uchida, our Senior Program Officer for the past seven years, will succeed Jim as President.  The Board and I extend our sincere thanks to Jim and look forward to working with Jim and Christy through this important transition of leadership.

Gary P. Brinson, Founder and Chairman of the Board

President’s Letter

from 2018 Annual Report

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As I look back on my time with The Brinson Foundation, I am struck by what an extraordinary privilege it has been to serve in this role.  One of the greatest benefits of leading a foundation is having the opportunity to learn something new every day.  Since this will be my last President’s letter, I will take the liberty of highlighting a few of the valuable lessons I have learned since joining the Foundation in 2004:

  • Effective philanthropy requires an open mind, careful listening and a willingness to take risks.
  • Impact often follows if you concentrate on identifying effective programs and then trusting grantees with the resources and flexibility they need to execute and evaluate their work.
  • Focused research and relevant data are essential to the effective deployment of non-profit resources and philanthropic dollars.
  • Ignoring public policy considerations substantially increases the risk that precious human and financial resources will be squandered.
  • A dedicated and engaged Board and staff are one of the most important keys to success.

And finally,

  • You are never as smart nor as effective as grantees might lead you to believe.

Most importantly, I have learned from working with some amazing philanthropic and non-profit colleagues that impressive results can be achieved when sheer willpower, creative thinking and collaborative energy are marshalled to attack a problem.

I am writing this letter in March of 2019 and still have a lot on my “to-do” list before the year comes to a close.  Once it does, I have no thoughts of slinking off to a retirement filled with golf and afternoon naps, partly because I am lousy at both.  I look forward to working with the Brinson family and Christy Uchida to ensure that future generations look back on my years at the helm as a good start toward an incredibly productive future.  I plan to stay involved in a variety of volunteer activities that will keep me engaged in the work of the non-profit sector.  After all, I’ve learned that there’s always more work to be done!


James D. Parsons
March 2019