Marin Community Foundation Names Rhea Suh as President & CEO

Jun 22, 2021

Following a comprehensive nationwide search, the Marin Community Foundation Board of Directors is proud to announce that Rhea Suh will become the next President & CEO of MCF.

Rhea brings a full breadth of philanthropic, environmental and public policy experience to the organization. She has served as president of a large non-profit organization, a senior official in the federal government, and a lead program officer at two significant foundations. Her substantive expertise includes domestic and international climate policy, terrestrial conservation and natural resource management, environmental justice, indigenous rights, and sovereignty. She has led policy, budget, finance, strategy, and evaluation initiatives throughout her career, and has extensive experience in both legislative and executive branches and with international law and multinational treaties.

“My fellow Directors and I are genuinely enthusiastic in welcoming Rhea to MCF and to the broader community,” said MCF Board Chair Mark Buell. “The range of her experience and the depth of her expertise mean that Rhea's leadership is sure to herald an exciting new phase of evolution for the foundation.”

“I feel an enormous sense of privilege in being appointed to this position,” stated Suh. “MCF is regarded as a leader in the field, with an influence that extends across the country, and I believe that my diverse experience and skillset can extend that influence to make an even greater impact in the community.”

Rhea is the past President of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Over her four and a half year tenure, the organization grew by more than $50 million and increased its membership by more than 40 percent. She led the creation of a new ten-year strategic plan; helped steer high-level discussions that led to the historic global climate agreement in Paris; championed a precedent-setting settlement for the residents of Flint, Michigan, regarding the city"s toxic drinking water crisis; and was a featured speaker at the 2017 Women"s March on Washington, D.C.

Before joining NRDC, Rhea served as the Assistant Secretary for policy, management, and budget at the U.S. Department of the Interior. She was nominated for the position by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in 2009. She led several cross-cutting initiatives at the department including establishing a successful diversity program for the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and leading the inter-agency Wildland Fire national coordinating body. She also led the Administration"s successful effort to create a federal recognition effort for the Native Hawaiian community.

Prior to her appointment to the Interior Department, Rhea worked at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, where she developed a $200 million program dedicated to environmental conservation and clean energy in the West. She helped to establish a collaboration among nonprofit organizations to coordinate conservation efforts across the Colorado River Basin. In addition, she helped to develop the foundation"s strategy for reducing climate change emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

She developed similarly far-reaching programs at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. While there, she designed the foundation"s first clean energy and climate change initiative, led the effort to create the Great Bear Rainforest, and She also launched a portfolio designed to focus on environmental justice issues for underserved populations in the United States. Rhea earned her bachelor"s degree in environmental science from Barnard College, received a Fulbright Fellowship to Seoul, South Korea and earned a master's degree in education, administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University.

Rhea’s appointment comes after a yearlong search effort to replace Dr. Thomas Peters, who has served as MCF’s President and CEO for 23 years, and announced his retirement in 2020.

“As we voted to bring Rhea into the leadership role, the Board paused once again to express our sincere appreciation to Dr. Peters for his many contributions over the years,” said Buell. “Under his adroit leadership since 1998, MCF has become a nationally recognized actor in the country’s philanthropic sphere, and countless lives and communities are the better for his efforts.”

“One of the most consequential periods in professional life comes when the seasons change, and the time is right to pass the baton,” stated Dr. Peters. “I am personally delighted and exceptionally proud to do so with Rhea.”

“My life’s ambitions are uniquely in synch with MCF’s mission and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to explicitly pursue the conjoined goals of equity, justice, prosperity and sustainability through the lens of place, and with the focus on people,” stated Suh.

Rhea will commence the position on September 7, 2021.

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