Rajiv Shah to be named Rockefeller Foundation President

NEW YORK, Jan 5:  Former USAID head Rajiv J Shah is set to be named as president of the Rockefeller Foundation, one of America’s largest and most influential philanthropies, becoming the youngest person and the first Indian-American to lead the group.

“Thrilled & very proud to be named the next @RockefellerFdn president,” Shah, 43, tweeted yesterday.

A report in the New York Times said the Rockefeller Foundation will today name Shah to succeed Judith Rodin, who has been president for 12 years.

The appointment will make Shah one of the “most powerful forces in charitable giving” overseeing a foundation that donates roughly USD 200 million each year, the report added.

The selection will make Shah the youngest person and the first Indian-American to lead the Rockefeller Foundation, which was founded in 1913 by the oil tycoon John D Rockefeller.

“I’ve seen what’s possible when people come together,” Shah said in an interview to NYT this week. “We were able to save tens of thousands, if not millions, of lives”.

The NYT quoted Shah as saying that he was committed to the broad themes of resilience and inclusive economies.

“That core concept of resilience is extraordinarily important going forward,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to evolve into the future”.

Shah added that he would look for opportunities to address divisions in the American electorate in the current political scenario.

“It is a different time today than it was 10 or 15 years ago. We live in a more fractured world,” he said in the NYT report.

Richard Parsons, the chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation board, said Shah was the unanimous choice of the search committee after a competitive process that considered hundreds of candidates.

“Raj is the perfect guy to come in after her,” Parsons said in an interview to the NYT. “He’s a performer. You put him up in front of a group and people come away impressed. Now, he’s got a platform”.

Shah was USAID head under the Obama administration from 2009 to 2015. He had previously served as Undersecretary and Chief Scientist in the US Department of Agriculture, where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture.

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he spent eight years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led efforts in global health, agriculture, and financial services, including the creation of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation.

He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and the Wharton School of Business. Shah was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by Secretary of former State Hillary Clinton and has served as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.

Rodin described Shah as a “marvel”, saying “he’s very strategic and very innovative. He shows an interpersonal dexterity that is well beyond his years”. (PTI)