Altman Foundation Announces Leadership Transition, New President and Chair

October 10, 2018

New York City -- The Altman Foundation Board of Trustees and Jane B. O’Connell, President, announce that Karen L. Rosa, Vice President and Executive Director, will retire at the end of 2018. Karen began her tenure at the Foundation as Associate Director in 1986 and became Executive Director in 1991. Since 1986, the assets of the Foundation have grown from $85 million to the present $260 million and the Foundation has distributed just over $300 million in grants. Upon Karen’s retirement, Deborah T. Velazquez, currently Associate Director at the Altman Foundation, will become President of the Foundation and Jane B. O’Connell, currently President, will become Chair of the Board of Trustees.

During her time at Altman, Karen Rosa guided the Foundation through a period of growth and professionalization and increased its stature in the philanthropic community. Under her leadership, Benjamin Altman’s vision of improving the lives of all New Yorkers has continued to be realized through the development of grantmaking strategies in education, the arts, health, and strengthening communities. She also led the development of a results-based approach to grantmaking and a review process that takes a multi-year view of grants and their effectiveness. Her care and compassion for Altman grantees are legendary.

A former board chair of Philanthropy New York, Karen has been involved in many philanthropic support organizations, including New York Grantmakers in the Arts (past co-chair) and the Youth Funders Network, and she was an early participant in the Collaborative to Advance Funding for Palliative Care, helping to build support for that field. Prior to joining the Altman Foundation, Karen served as a consultant to The Rockefeller Foundation’s Trustee Task Force on Development and, before that, worked for eleven years for art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil. Karen is currently a Trustee of the Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation and a member of the Board of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.

Deborah T. Velazquez joined the Foundation as Senior Program Officer in 2008 and became Associate Director in 2016. Deborah earned a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a BS in Business Administration from SUNY New Paltz. Before joining the Foundation, she worked at Emmanuel Community Development Corporation, Bridge Street Development Corporation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, and the social policy research firm, MDRC. Deborah was also a principal at a consulting practice specializing in philanthropic advising.

The not-for-profit community, including her fellow funders, will miss Karen’s wisdom and passion for her work. As Karen said recently, “I have always said that I have had the best job in the world. I get to work every day with incredibly smart, committed, and thoughtful people—our staff and Trustees, our colleagues in philanthropy and in the public sector, and our amazing grantees. I am grateful to our Trustees for being willing to take chances with us on innovative ideas, and to our grantees for being able to deliver so beautifully on behalf of the people and communities we serve.”

About the Altman Foundation

Created in 1913 under the will of Benjamin Altman, the Altman Foundation supports programs and institutions that enrich the quality of life in New York City with a focus on initiatives that help individuals, families, and communities benefit from the services and opportunities that will enable them to achieve their full potential. With over one hundred years as a major funder in New York City, the Foundation has kept its founder as the touchstone while also responding to emerging needs and issues.


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(L) Karen L. Rosa, (R) Deborah T. Velazquez. (L) Karen L. Rosa, (R) Deborah T. Velazquez.