Following a nationwide search, the Central New York Community Foundation Board of Directors announced today that it has selected Melanie Littlejohn as the organization’s next president & CEO, effective March 1, 2024. Littlejohn has worked for National Grid-New York for 29 years, most recently serving as vice president of customer & community engagement.
“Melanie is the right leader to take the Community Foundation to the next level of community leadership and impact,” said Board Chair Daniel J. Fisher. “She is a humble, empathetic, servant leader who has intimate knowledge and passion for the community and its needs. We believe Melanie will build on the foundation laid by previous leadership and the strengths of our outstanding staff to provide bold and courageous leadership and build trust by being present with those we serve.”
Littlejohn was selected after a thorough eight-month search that included input and feedback from many constituencies of the Community Foundation and the greater Central New York community.
“The Community Foundation’s staff, board, and stakeholders articulated a vision for a bold, impassioned and grounded leader,” said J. Andrew Breuer, search committee co-chair. “By leading countless community initiatives, work groups and committees over the past three decades, Melanie has proven to be one of Central New York’s most trusted corporate citizens and most valued community advocates. She is a perennial bridge builder, with a tried-and-true devotion to the Community Foundation.”
The search committee conducted a nationwide search to find candidates who demonstrated appreciation for the challenges that face our region, such as poverty and racial disparities, and who had proven ability to lead on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion.
“Melanie is a boundary crosser, a collaborator and a strategic thinker who will lead the Community Foundation with heart and passion,” said Bethaida González, search committee co-chair. “She is widely known and respected for her responsiveness to community needs and her success at building coalitions to address them. She is committed to deploying our growing asset base in new ways that support local impact, deepen our engagement with the community and build a more inclusive culture of philanthropy and community investment in collaboration with our partners.”
Littlejohn, who earlier this month announced her plans to retire from National Grid in February, leads a team responsible for engaging with customers, key community leaders and policy makers across New York State to ensure processes, planning and best practices were delivered consistently. Her focus is to drive customer satisfaction while promoting safety and reliability measures, emergency management services and economic development initiatives. She was also responsible for the design and delivery of the company’s corporate social responsibility program, which aims to support neighborhood revitalization, environmental justice, social equity and workforce development.
Littlejohn has worked for National Grid since 1994, when she initially joined the company as director of inclusion & diversity – US operations. In this role, she was responsible for the company’s overall strategy for inclusion, diversity and compliance.
“Melanie has been a leader at National Grid for nearly 30 years, in a variety of roles where she has been able to bring out the best for our colleagues, our company and the communities we serve,” said Rudolph Wynter, president, National Grid-New York. “On behalf of our more than 10,400 employees across New York, I want to congratulate Melanie and the Community Foundation on their next chapter together. We know they’ll do great things.”
Prior to starting at National Grid, Littlejohn served as executive director of the Urban League of Onondaga County and manager of international client services for Banker’s Trust Company in the Wall Street District. She holds a master’s in business administration (MBA) degree from Syracuse University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Littlejohn is active in numerous civic and philanthropic initiatives. She currently serves as co-chair of the Micron Community Engagement Committee, which helps drive the company’s community investment strategy. She is also board trustee and vice chair of Onondaga Community College and serves on the boards of CenterState CEO and Pathfinder Bank. She has served on numerous boards over the course of her career, including that of the Community Foundation, where she served as chair from 2011-2013.
Littlejohn has received numerous honors in recognition of her civic leadership. Most recently, she was named a 2022 Woman of Prestige from the Yva Jourdan Foundation and she received the 2019 Wisdom Keeper Award from FOCUS Greater Syracuse. She is also recognized for her commitment to mentoring up-and-coming leaders and has served as a student mentor and guest speaker to classes at Syracuse University.
Littlejohn plans to apply her career and life experiences to the Community Foundation’s work by supporting community transformation and fully engaging residents, including those impacted by specific issues and donors of varying backgrounds.
“For me, there is no better place to be than with this foundation and in this tremendous community,” said Littlejohn. “After almost 30 years at National Grid, I understand the power of service and the importance of collaboration to leave our communities and neighborhoods a little better than we found them. This is truly a transformative time for Central New York, so leading the Community Foundation at this moment of great promise is an honor.”
Littlejohn succeeds Peter Dunn, who served as the Community Foundation’s president & CEO since 2008. Under Dunn’s leadership, assets nearly quadrupled from $110 million in 2008 to nearly $400 million in 2022. Annual grantmaking increased from $5.2 million in 2008 to $18.1 million in 2022 and the staff grew from 16 employees to 25.
Until Littlejohn assumes her new role on March 1, Thomas Griffith will continue to serve as the Community Foundation’s interim president and CEO.
About the CEO Search Committee:
The Community Foundation’s board of directors was committed to finding the right leader to advance the organization’s mission to foster a thriving and equitable Central New York region. The Board formed a search committee comprised of current and former board members that was charged with interviewing candidates for consideration and recommending a final candidate to the board for approval. The search committee was advised throughout the process by BoardWalk Consulting, a national executive search firm specializing in the recruitment of CEOs for foundations and nonprofit organizations. Committee members were:
Co-Chair: Bethaida González, former vice president of community engagement & special assistant to chancellor, Syracuse University
Co-Chair: J. Andrew Breuer, president, Heuber Breuer
Rebecca Bronfein Raphael, director of sales, Curio Wellness
Calvin Corriders, regional president, Syracuse market, Pathfinder Bank
Daniel J. Fisher, former executive vice president, Welch Allyn
Stephen D. Fournier, Central New York market president, Key Bank
Susan Furtney, MPH, FACHE, chief strategy officer, Health Leads
Kevin E. Schwab, vice president of public policy & government relations and air service development, CenterState CEO
Karin Sloan Delaney, Esq., principal, Sloan DeLaney P.C.
Gwen Webber-McLeod, president/CEO, Gwen, Inc.
Christine Woodcock Dettor, Esq., partner, Bousquet Holstein, PLLC
About Central New York Community Foundation:
The Central New York Community Foundation is a public charity that turns community dollars into community change. Established in 1927, it receives contributions from donors, manages them to grow over time and then distributes funding to address the region’s greatest needs. The foundation has invested more than $270 million in community projects that benefit Central New York. It also serves as a civic leader, convener and sponsor of strategic initiatives that foster a thriving and equitable region and address the most critical issues of our time.