LAFF Society


News About Former Ford Foundation Staff, Summer 2019


N. Bird Runningwater, director of the Sundance Institute’s Indigenous Program and a member of LAFF’s executive committee, has been selected a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which nominates and votes on the Oscars.
There are 8,000 members in the Academy, men and women working in the film industry who have “distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures”.
Bird is one of 842 artists selected for this year’s “class” of new members, who also include the singers Adele and Lady Gaga and the actor who plays Spider Man, Tom Holland. 
According to the Academy, “A total of 29 percent of the new class…are people of color, marking an 8 percent increase in that statistic since 2015.” Half the new members are women. 
Bird worked at the Ford Foundation from 1996 to 1998 in its Media, Arts and Culture program, which introduced him to the world of filmmaking and propelled him on a path he had not considered.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in journalism and Native American Studies, and then a master’s from the University of Texas’ Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. His first job was with Ford, and not the governance and policy position he had studied for. “It was completely serendipitous,” he told Indian Country Today, a daily digital news service. “That was my introduction into media and film.” 
According to Sundance, he has “identified, developed and gotten made and distributed 37 films written, directed and produced by Native American and Indigenous filmmakers….140 different Indigenous filmmakers have been identified and supported by the organization. More than 120 films written, directed and produced by Indigenous filmmakers have been curated by Runningwater to premiere at Sundance Film Festival.”
Bird wrote about this work in the Winter 2018 issue of the LAFF newsletter in an article titled, “Nurturing Native American Filmmakers”. 
Brandee McHale is the new president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, which describes its mission as “using philanthropy and business expertise to help solve three critical issues: housing affordability, financial health and small business growth”.
The financial services institution has pledged to provide $1 billion from both the foundation and its business into efforts to make housing more affordable, and selected Ms. McHale specifically to lead that effort. 
She was a program officer at the Ford Foundation from 2005 to 2007, during which time, she has noted, “I developed a portfolio of investments that supported the efforts of low-income households to achieve financial success and also helped to establish a business case for financial inclusion.”
She was most recently president of the Citi Foundation and director of its Corporate Citizenship efforts. She joined the Citi Foundation as its chief operating officer after leaving Ford.
She is a member of the boards of Living Cities, Prosperity Now, Local Initiatives Support Corporation and America’s Promise Alliance.
Sonali Mukerjee’s prowess as a tennis player and now a coach was highlighted in an article in The Hindu, a Madras newspaper that is one of the more influential dailies in India. 
“I am passionate about” coaching, she said in the article published in the August 10 edition. “It is a priority for me. Aside from coaching, I play with friends a couple of times a week. It gives me immense pleasure, and an outlet from the stressful life in New York. I regularly watch tennis on television, and make it a point to attend the U.S. Open two or three times every year.”
That stressful life is as grants manager of the Altman Foundation, after having worked in Program Management at the Ford Foundation from 2001 to 2009. 
She began playing tennis when she was 11, training at the South Club in Kolkata (Calcutta), capital of West Bengal in her native India. She was a member of the Indian women’s team at the Asian Games in 1982 and received a full scholarship from Barton College in North Carolina, helping the college’s team win all-district and all-conference championships.
After graduation she moved to New York City and worked for UNICEF before beginning a career in philanthropy, first with the Carnegie Corporation and then, after earning a master’s degree in public policy, with Ford. 
Graham Macmillan has been named president of the VISA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of VISA, whose “central focus…is committed to helping low-income, financially underserved micro and small enterprises around the world to thrive and prosper”.
Since 2016 he had been working at the Ford Foundation as senior program officer for Mission Investments, a $1.25 billion program of impact investments and program support. His primary responsibility was to oversee efforts aimed at “strengthening institutions and applying technologies to change how capital markets allocate investment to be more long-term and sustainable”.
Before Ford he was Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Business Partnerships at the Citi Foundation.



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