Paul Brest, who has led the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation since 1999, announced on Friday that he will retire from the position next year.
Mr. Brest, a former dean of Stanford Law School, said in a message on Hewlett’s Web site that he had decided the time was right to step down.
“Next summer I will turn 72, the age at which Hewlett board members (including the president) have traditionally retired,” he said. “After 12 years as president, I am planning to leave the foundation to return to teaching.”
In the message, Mr. Brest said that the foundation had created a search committee and that a new president would probably be named during the first half of next year. Mr. Brest plans to remain in the post until that time.
During his tenure at the Menlo Park, Calif., organization, Mr. Brest focused on strengthening the field of philanthropy.
In addition to serving as Hewlett’s president, he has run the foundation’s efforts to ensure that more money flows to high-performing nonprofits and that those organizations achieve the maximum impact.
With Hal Harvey, Mr. Brest is the co-author of the book Money Well Spent: A Strategic Plan for Smart Philanthropy, which was released in 2008.
He has also been unafraid to speak his mind.
In 2009 Mr. Brest wrote a column for the Huffington Post in which he criticized the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, for a controversial report that recommended that foundations devote half of their money to helping poor and marginalized people.
“Even for someone who shares NCRP’s concerns about marginalized communities, its hierarchy of ends is breathtakingly arrogant,” Mr. Brest wrote.
People in the foundation world praised Mr. Brest’s tenure at Hewlett.
“He has been both a great leader for our field and a treasured colleague,” Jim Canales, president of the James Irvine Foundation, wrote in a message on Twitter posted on Friday.
Phil Buchanan, president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy, which receives significant financial support from Hewlett, also emphasized the impact Mr. Brest has had on the foundation world at large.
“Paul Brest is a leader in pushing for a philanthropy that is focused, data-driven, and strategic in pursuit of the maximum possible positive impact,” he said in an e-mail to The Chronicle.