MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch stepping down next year

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Julia Stasch speaks to the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board in April 2016. | Sun-Times file photo

Julia M. Stasch, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will step down from her post in 2019, the philanthropic organization announced on Tuesday.

Stasch, 71, previously servedas Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff, as the city’s housing commissioner and as deputy administrator of the federal General Services Administration under President Bill Clinton.

She was vice president for U.S. programs at MacArthur — an institution perhaps best known for its Fellows Program, or “genius grants” — for 13 years before being named president in July 2014.

“During this exceptional time, when hope and optimism persist, even as the challenges facing our city, our nation, and the world can seem so daunting and the divisions so deep, it is an honor to lead an institution committed to making the world a better and more just place for all,” Stasch said in a statement. “Philanthropy is well-positioned to act boldly, to take risks, to invest in new ideas, and to bridge differences to effect real and lasting change.”

Stasch implemented MacArthur’s “Big Bets” program, which channeled $127 million to address over-incarceration in America, and $236 million to promote climate-change solutions.

She also led the creation of 100&Change, a competition for a $100 million grant that ended up going to Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee to educate children displaced by conflicts in the Middle East.

“Julia has provided exemplary leadership, bringing rigor, urgency, boldness, and a willingness to take risks to MacArthur’s programs and operations,” MacArthur board chairman Dan Huttenlocher said. “We applaud her contributions and look forward to building on the bold achievements of her tenure as we continue to work with MacArthur’s outstanding staff and partners of all kinds to help bring about real and lasting change.”

Foundation officials have begun searching for their next president.

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