LAFF Society


Franklin A. Thomas, 1934 to 2021


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This special issue of The LAFF Society newsletter is a tribute to the man, his accomplishments and his legacy from many who worked with him.




LAFF Remembers Franklin Thomas: Co-Presidents’ Reflections


Those of us who had the honor of working at the Foundation during his tenure appreciated his powerful influence, which stemmed from his quiet but firm approach to leadership.


He Left the World a Better Place

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By Susan Berresford

Frank was committed to building a diverse staff that resembled the world we worked in. He often said that the strength of the Foundation resided significantly in its employees worldwide


A Man of “Vision, Tenacity and Dignity”

By Barron Tenny

Frank was understated and not one to lavish praise. I remember feeling good when he returned a work product of mine with a handwritten note saying, “I am not displeased with this”.


Celebrating the Remarkable Legacy of Franklin Thomas

By Darren Walker

While Frank surely changed the world, perhaps equally remarkable is what never changed about Frank: his humility, his generosity, his equanimity.


“A True Humanitarian”

By Shepard Forman

Frank’s tenure was a period of intense learning and growth, during which I developed an abiding appreciation for Frank as a person and as a boss.


From the Class of ’92: “We worked for Frank”

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By Radhika Balakrishnan, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos, Natalia Kanem, Anthony Romero and Marcia Smith. Each of us was drawn to Ford’s mission and history, its commitment to causes, issues and institutions that had animated our early careers. But in all candor, we also came to work for Frank Thomas.


Grantees: “Up Front and in the Center”

By Charles Bailey

Frank underscored the notion that staff should live and work as close as possible to those who were tackling significant challenges with Ford money.


Taking Risks “Is What We Do”

By Steven W. Lawry

“Franklin Thomas transformed the Ford Foundation from a technical assistance organization to a humanistic organization.”


A Leader With “Vision and Courage”

By Barry D. Gaberman

Frank had a vision that put gender, diversity and equity as a priority in everything the Foundation did, not as just a cluster of discrete program categories among many others.


Forging “New Paths on Multiple Fronts”

By Judy Barsalou

In his collegial and good-humored way, Frank led the Foundation to forge new paths on multiple fronts and demonstrated qualities that any young program officer would do well to emulate.


How to Lead: True to Oneself and “With Confidence, Trust and Kindness”

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By Mora McLean

To have known Frank and benefited from his mentoring is a gift of great fortune that I strive to pay forward.


“The Tallest Tree in Our Forest”

By Akwasi Aidoo

Frank’s Sunsum and Nkrabea have left a trailblazing legacy for an endless period.


“Pivotal” Support for Programs in China

By Mark Sidel

After the Beijing office opened, Ford Foundation was faced with the questions of what to do after the 1989 spring and June 4 events in Beijing.


Presidents’ Update: The Future of LAFF


The LAFF Society has come to a moment in its evolution when we need to be more vigorous in attracting new members, more efficient in meeting their needs and more effective in communicating with each other.


“Living into My Life”

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By Joy Carol

We might not be able to be cured or healed, but we can choose how we respond to our challenges, no matter how difficult they may be.


Music in the Time of Covid: Stellar Performances Online

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By George Gelles

Since last Spring, when the pandemic’s dangers were widely acknowledged and “live” performances were suspended, musicians and dancers have begun to show great imagination in rethinking their art, its creation and dissemination.


Brian Urquhart Meets Sam Nujoma in Swakopmund

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By Steven W. Lawry

John Gerhart’s fax read: “Brian Urquhart, Ford Foundation Scholar-in-Residence and one of the great men of the 20th century, visiting your office in Windhoek next month. Please make all necessary arrangements.” 


The Role of Communities in Resolving Disputes

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Two articles that explore the persistent, divisive national problem that has taken on greater significance with the recent eruption of racial conflicts: the pressing need for “serious investments in conflict resolution in our communities”.


Memoirs of an International Life

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Excerpts from a self-published memoir by William Gamble, an odyssey replete with personal and professional details, from mundane to physically harrowing, painting a full and fascinating picture of the life of a Ford Foundation overseas representative and his family in the early days of the foundation’s international work.


Newsletter Index


Nellie Toma, LAFF’s secretary-treasurer, has completed the arduous task of indexing every newsletter since the Society’s inception in 1991.


Recollection Project


LAFFing Parade, Winter 2021


Bonnie Jenkins, Don Chen, Cristobal J. Alex, Bird Runningwater, Jon Funabiki, Mark Baumgartner, and Mildred Warner are in the news.




Selection Of Articles Published Elsewhere

Suzanne E. Siskel Joins RMAF Board of Trustees


The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) welcomes Suzanne E. Siskel as the newest member of its Board of Trustees.


Remembering Urvashi


Urvashi Vaid, a pioneering LGBTQ+ civil rights activist is remembered by Bradford K. Smith.


In Memory of Franklin Augustine Thomas


Franklin A. Thomas Memorial Service on January 9, 2022.


Celebrating the remarkable legacy of Franklin Thomas

By Darren Walker |  12/26/2021

Franklin Thomas was a giant—an American original; a singular leader; an iconic figure in the history of the Ford Foundation and philanthropy, our city and all cities, our nation and the world.


Franklin A. Thomas, Pathbreaking Ford Foundation President, Dies at 87


He rose from working-class Brooklyn to become the first Black person to run a major American philanthropy, and he revitalized it, shifting its focus to poverty and education.


Dr. Akwasi Aidoo A pioneer and an inspirational leader


Lifetime Recognition: Dr. Akwasi Aidoo’s Role in Promoting African Philanthropy and Leadership


In Memoriam 2021


From David Arnold:   Suzanne Siskel’s husband, Peter Gajewski, passed away July 15, 2021 following a long illness. Peter was a remarkable individual …


Carnegie Corporation NY announces search for new president


Carnegie Corporation of New York, the foundation established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911, seeks a visionary leader who can help fulfill the institution’s mission of promoting …




Confronting Coronavirus

We are posting here the views of LAFF members on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. We anticipate this will be the beginning of a communal dialog among our members as they cope with the uncertainties of the spread and severity of the virus, and try to imagine an altered world.

While written at specific times during this rapidly changing global crisis, these articles offer both a timeline of individual reactions and perspectives on how we can, and should, prepare for when the pandemic fades and a new worldview emerges.

We hope members will send both original pieces and reprints of articles they have published elsewhere. Submissions may be sent to John LaHoud, editor of LAFF’s newsletter and website, at .


From Manila: A Community Leader’s Assessment

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By Jeorgie Tenolete and Mary Racelis A local activist in a suburb of Manila, deals with the "staggering challenge of mobilizing a huge community of urban poor households to combat the looming health and economic disasters facing them”. read more.

From AIDS to Covid-19: What Grant Makers Can Learn

By Michael Seltzer With AIDS as a guide, here’s what we should keep in mind in the months and years ahead as we respond to the ongoing consequences of today’s pandemic. read more.

Covid-19 and the unfinished agenda of funding zoonotic diseases in Southeast Asia

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By Rosalia Sciortino As we think about long-term responses beyond the immediate crisis, we may want to look back to now-forgotten initiatives. read more.

From India: A Case For a Greener GNP Post-Covid

By Ganesan Balachander We currently assess GNP without paying attention to the ecological and environmental consequences of human action. read more.

From Surreal to All Too Real: Coronavirus in Brazil

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By Shep Forman We are now nearing 60 days in this privileged quarantine, constantly aware of the catastrophe that is unfolding around us. read more.

A View From England

By David Winder How the author’s small community dealt with lockdown measures. read more.

China Medical Board’s Response

By Suzanne Siskel and Lincoln Chen What the China Medical Board is doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. read more.

Making it Work Online: A Rapid Response to COVID

By Barbara Klugman Lessons from a Theory of Change workshop in London with the Urban Policy Programme of WIEGO. read more.

Past leaders showed how to deal with crises

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By Arthur I. Cyr  Americans have raised the bar regarding expectations of government during crisis. read more.

Closing Schools: An “innovative” solution?

By Richard Lacey A unique solution to the worst threat schools face today. read more.

Nonprofit Workers: “on the front lines”

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By Michael Seltzer and Patricia Swann Since the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., nonprofits have been on the front lines of the epidemic. read more.

Ignoring the Social Context At Our Peril

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By Rosalia Sciortino I wonder why the voices of social scientists and even public health specialists seem so subdued. read more.

Five Stages of Denial

By Fran Korten ….with a nod to Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist who came up with five stages of climate denial. read more.

Get Through Today, but Remake Tomorrow

By Michelle J. DePass We are about to see a “pandemic inequality feedback loop” that will expose every bias we have embedded in our society. read more.\news\Covid-UN-Women-Bangkok2-320.jpg