Plenary Topics and Speakers

National Forum plenaries feature leading voices in the field and society at large discussing the pressing issues of our time. View the full schedule for more information on plenary and concurrent sessions.

Plenary topics include:

Arne Duncan Janice Jackson and Robin Stearns

Education and Equity: Overcoming Barriers in the City of Big Shoulders
Wednesday, October 16, 11:45 am–2 pm
Confirmed speakers:
– Arne Duncan, Managing Partner, Emerson Collective
– Dr. Janice Jackson, CEO, Chicago Public Schools

– Robin Steans, Trustee and Board Chair, Steans Family Foundation (moderator)

Chicago offers a compelling story about the many barriers faced by its youth and the innovative steps being taken to overcome them. While many challenges remain, the public schools have made remarkable progress in improving student academic performance, attracting the attention of national researchers. Other groundbreaking programs target troubled young people who must overcome major hurdles to escape neighborhood violence, crime and despair. This conversation will describe how innovation, investment in public education, including family philanthropy, and targeted job training are helping young people of color aspire to greater goals in life.


The Value of Family Philanthropy: A Critique and Dialogue
Thursday, October  17, 7:45–10 am
Confirmed speakers:
-Liz Thompson, President, Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE)
-Edgar Villanueva, Author,
Decolonizing Wealth, Board Member, Andrus Family Fund

A variety of sharp critiques have been written recently about the practices, history, and prejudices of private philanthropy in the U.S. This provocative plenary features a discussion with the author of one of these critiques for a facilitated conversation encouraging the potential of private philanthropy. The goal is to have a frank, but ultimately uplifting, conversation on how all families engaged in philanthropy can better achieve the shared goal of a more just and open society.


A Conversation with New and Graduating CEOs
Thursday, October 17, 12:15–2:30 pm
Confirmed speakers:
– Jamie Allison, Executive Director, Walter & Elise Haas Fund
– Don Chen, President, Surdna Foundation
– Jim Parsons, President, The Brinson Foundation
– Richard Woo, CEO, The Russell Family Foundation

Being the non-family staff leader of a multi-generational family foundation is a privilege and an honor. The role of furthering a family’s philanthropy is a special and unique experience, but it can also be difficult. Hear from two graduating CEOs as they discuss their experiences alongside new CEOs.



GInny Esposito, David Dodson, Ira Hirschfield, Lisa Parker

What Do We Stand For? A Conversation and Celebration with Ginny Esposito
Thursday, October 17, 6–8:30 pm
Confirmed speakers:
– David Dodson, President, MDC
Virginia Esposito, Founder and President, National Center for Family Philanthropy
– Ira Hirschfield, President Emeritus, Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
– Lisa Parker, President, Lawrence Welk Family Foundation (moderator)

This special dinner discussion with NCFP Founding President Ginny Esposito will celebrate her transition to the role of Senior Fellow at NCFP. Ginny will be interviewed by a long-time peer and mentor in a lively conversation that explores important changes in the field over the past 20 years, looks at opportunities for the future, and share reflections on her more than two decades of service and leadership.


Turner Foundation

Transitions and Legacy within the Turner Family
Friday, October 18, 12:15–2:30 pm
Confirmed speakers:
– Judy Adler, President, Turner Foundation

– Laura Turner Seydel, Trustee, Turner Foundation; Chairperson, Captain Planet Foundation
– Vasser Seydel, Trustee-Elect, Turner Foundation

Over the past two decades, the Turner Foundation has welcomed new leadership, ideas, and perspectives to its board. How do legacy and values transcend those changes, while incorporating the next and new generation? This special conversation with the President and two generations of leadership from the foundation will explore past, present, and future transitions.