Jessie Ball duPont Fund President Sherry Magill to Step Down

Sherry Magill, who has led the Jessie Ball duPont Fund for the last 25 years, will retire June 30, 2018.

Magill shared her plans with the Jessie Ball duPont Fund trustees and staff during the Fund’s annual retreat this week at Amelia Island.

“Serving as president of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund has been the greatest privilege of my professional life,” Magill said. “I am very proud of what the Fund has accomplished, and I feel that the organization is well-positioned to make the transition to a new leader.”  

“Sherry’s guidance has enabled the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to mature from a modest, regional foundation to one with a national reputation for thoughtful and innovative philanthropy,” said Marty Lanahan, chair for the Fund’s trustees. “We are indebted to her for her leadership.”

Magill joined the Jessie Ball duPont Fund in 1991, hired to serve as a program officer managing the Fund’s grantmaking to educational institutions. In 1993, the trustees asked her to serve the Fund as Executive Director and, in 2000, named her President of the Fund.

“Hiring Sherry Magill was one of the most important decisions made by the second-generation of the Jessie Ball duPont trustees,” said Trustee Emeritus Jean Ludlow, who was among those who hired Magill. “She brought to the Fund intellect, experience and a deep devotion to Mrs. duPont’s desire to continue the work of the institutions she supported. Sherry’s vision has stretched our capacity and impact by guiding our work in new and more creative directions.”

“She also is a student of philanthropy,” said Kitty Phillips, who will retire this year after 31 years as a trustee of the Fund. “She understands the field, she has gained an understanding of finance and she has found ways for the Fund to leverage its assets and have a much deeper impact.”

Among the highlights of the Jessie Ball duPont Fund’s work during Magill’s tenure:

  • Shifting from organization-focused philanthropy to community-focused philanthropy in the five communities where Mrs. duPont invested most heavily. By bringing grantees together and discussing important community issues, the Fund fostered partnerships and adopted a more cohesive and strategic grantmaking approach.
  • Emphasizing the importance of grantees’ organizational capacity. More than one third of the Fund’s investments in the past two decades have been focused on growing and sustaining strong, responsive and adaptable nonprofit organizations.
  • Building the infrastructure of the independent sector. Magill was instrumental in founding the Florida Philanthropic Network, the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, and the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence in Richmond, Virginia, and actively supporting development of the Delaware Grantmakers Association (now Philanthropy Delaware). She served on the board of the Council on Foundations, the nation’s premier organization for charitable foundations, for nine years, the last three as chair.

In addition, Magill led the Fund through a landmark court case in 2003 that allowed the Fund to expand the number of its trustees from four to seven, enabling broader geographic representation, professional expertise and diversity in the governance of the Fund. She also encouraged the trustees to employ different financial strategies such as Program Related Investments and New Markets Tax Credits that greatly expanded the Fund’s philanthropic impact.

And she instigated and oversaw development of the Jessie Ball duPont Center, a gathering place for philanthropy and nonprofits in the abandoned Haydon Burns Public Library in downtown Jacksonville. The $26 million project has been nationally recognized for its elegant design, energy efficiency and innovative financing structure.

“Sherry has never let us down,” said Trustee Leroy Davis, “Just when we would think we could stop and catch our breath, she was moving us on to the next challenge. And her instincts were always right on – she always positioned the Fund where it needed to be.”

The trustees have engaged executive search consultant Sally Sterling to lead a national search for Magill’s successor with a goal of having a new president named by early 2019. Mary Kress Littlepage, who has served as a consultant to the Fund since 1999, will serve as interim President beginning July 1, 2018.