May 17, 2011

MacArthur's President Discusses His First Two Years on the Job

Robert Gallucci served as special envoy for the State Department, chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, and, for 13 years, dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

His first job in philanthropy is a plum one: president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Mr. Gallucci spoke recently with The Chronicle about what he's learned since he took the job nearly two years ago.

In person, Mr. Gallucci is friendly and witty. He describes a conversation with another foundation president during which it all of a sudden struck him: Were the two foundations in competition?

He says that an absence of competitors is something that separates the grant-making world from other fields. As a dean at Georgetown, Mr. Gallucci says he was always in competition with other deans for dollars, students, and faculty members.

Mr. Gallucci says he's keen on ensuring that MacArthur's dollars are used wisely. Foundations enjoy a tax benefit and with that privilege comes the responsibility to ensure that the money has the biggest possible impact, he says.

Like a lot of foundation presidents, Mr. Gallucci says he wants to place greater emphasis on evaluating the effectiveness of grants and programs. He's been meeting with other foundation leaders to learn how they approach evaluation. Mr. Gallucci says that in the future, foundation employees will likely have conversations about how to assess a grant-making strategy even before they award grants.