Gara LaMarche, president of the Atlantic Philanthropies since 2007, plans to step down on September 1, telling colleagues in a letter that “it’s time for a pause and a reset.”
Mr. LaMarche noted that Chuck Feeney, the giant grant maker’s founder, wants Atlantic to focus more spending on higher education and biomedical research in the years before it shuts its doors in 2016. “I’ve spent my life on social-justice advocacy and philanthropy, and I believe the organization needs a different kind of leader in the final chapter of the foundation,” he said in a statement.
Mr. LaMarche said he plans to take a post as senior fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and to write a book expanding on one of his lecture themes, “Reclaiming the Moral Life of Philanthropy.”
Under Mr. LaMarche’s leadership, Atlantic strengthened its focus on social justice, and Mr. LaMarche has urged foundations to take a more activist role in fighting for social change. The organization pumped more than $25-million into an effort to promote health-care overhaul during the contentious Congressional debate in 2009.
Before joining Atlantic, Mr. LaMarche was vice president and director of U.S. programs for the Open Society Institute, a foundation established by philanthropist George Soros. He previously held positions at Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. “My philanthropy and my activist days—they are the same,” he told a conference last year.
Atlantic, whose plans to close reflect Feeney’s “giving while living” philosophy, said in a statement that the board has begun to look for a successor. It said it will continue to focus grant making on its “historic core program themes” of aging, children and youths, human rights, and public health in the United States, Australia, Bermuda, Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and Vietnam.