Arts and Culture

With Gratitude to a Steward of Flinn—and Our State

March 16, 2018

By brianpowell

Board Chair’s Message | Foundation Report 2018

By David J. Gullen, M.D.
Chair, Board of Directors

Jack Jewett has always understood and cared deeply about Arizona. And for more than eight years, we were privileged to witness that commitment up close.

He was a graduate of the University of Arizona, a fixture in the Tucson business community as President of Territorial Newspapers, and served in the Arizona House of Representatives for five terms. He held strategic management positions at Tucson Medical Center for more than a decade. On the Arizona Board of Regents, he helped shape higher education in our state.

While Jack was serving Arizona through many leadership roles over a period of decades, here at the Flinn Foundation, we were doing our part to serve Arizona through our support of health care and the biosciences, the Flinn Scholars Program, and the state’s arts organizations.

In 2009, as my colleagues and I on the Board of Directors sought the second president and chief executive officer of the Foundation, we wanted to find a leader who could advocate for the Foundation’s policies and ideas in a way that created trust, built relationships, and helped us to work collaboratively with other people and organizations that care about Arizona. We saw in Jack someone who seemed to be a natural fit for our needs. And we were right.

Just as we hoped, Jack took the Foundation’s work to new heights over the next eight years. When he retired in September of last year, passing the torch to Tammy McLeod, Flinn’s current President and CEO, he had helped the Foundation expand and enhance each of its program areas in important ways to better serve Arizona.

Introducing Civic Leadership—and More

Jack made a quick impact on the Flinn Foundation—and Arizona—with the creation of the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership. In early conversations with the Board, he highlighted the importance of a more robust pipeline for civic leadership in Arizona, and within a year, our new program’s flagship initiative, the Flinn-Brown Civic Leadership Academy—a partnership with the Thomas R. Brown Foundations of Tucson—was accepting applicants for its inaugural cohort.

We envisioned our civic-leadership program as a way philanthropy could play a critical role in cultivating more well-informed leaders to respond to Arizona’s most significant challenges. The Academy, today an annually presented seminar series with a statewide focus, has now supported some 300 Arizonans from all perspectives and walks of life—a statewide network of Flinn-Brown Fellows. Additional activities and ongoing support systems enhance the Flinn-Brown Network, and special programming extends our reach to the broader community of individuals interested in civic leadership.

The civic-leadership program was our most visible development during Jack’s tenure, but hardly the only one. The Foundation also launched a Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program to benefit promising Arizona startup firms, updated Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, launched a new direction in arts-and-culture giving, strengthened the Flinn Scholars Program, and in 2015 celebrated Flinn’s 50th anniversary of philanthropy.

Enhancing the Foundation’s Traditional Interests

Most of Dr. and Mrs. Flinn’s early grants after establishing the Foundation in 1965 focused on support for St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Dr. Flinn, a cardiologist, had a formative leadership role. Jack embraced our benefactors’ intent that the Foundation focus primarily on health-related philanthropy, even as we identified new ways “to improve the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations,” as our mission states.

Bioscience

One of the experiences that Jack and Tammy had in common before coming to the Flinn Foundation was service on Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. The Roadmap, which we launched in 2002, is a long-term strategic plan to strengthen Arizona’s biomedical-research base and build a critical mass of bioscience firms and jobs. Under Jack’s leadership, in 2014 the Roadmap was updated through 2025 with refined goals, including the aim of forming a stronger entrepreneurial hub in Arizona.

With an eye toward that goal, in 2014 we also announced the first three participants in our competitively selected Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program to help early-stage bioscience firms. This year, with the six latest recipients of $30,000 in funding through a nonprofit partner and valuable program services, the cumulative number of program participants has reached nearly 30 firms.

Meanwhile, carefully targeted grants during Jack’s tenure supported major collaborative initiatives led by organizations such as Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Critical Path Institute, and Translational Genomics Research Institute, as well as the state’s three public universities. And to promote bench-to-bedside collaborations, we have provided several rounds of precision-medicine seed grants to Arizona research teams.

Flinn Scholars

For many Arizonans, the Flinn Foundation is best known for the Flinn Scholars Program, which will name its 33rd class of Scholars this spring—bringing the total number of current and Scholar alumni to well over 600. Jack helped to fortify that program’s international travel benefit, moving the three-week summer seminar for Scholars who have completed their first year of college from central Europe to China, and strengthening our relationship with the excellent study-abroad offices of Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona.

Jack also responded to the Board’s interest in ensuring that Scholars were deeply rooted in Arizona. In 2015, the Flinn Scholars Program introduced its Professional-Leadership Internship Program, which provides funding for each Scholar for a paid internship with a leading Arizona institution or company. Interning Scholars interact with key organizational leaders on in-depth projects, building skills and valuable connections in Arizona for future career opportunities.

Arts and Culture

When Jack arrived, we funded the arts through the Maricopa Partnership for Arts and Culture. When that organization closed, the Board decided to resume direct grant-making to Arizona’s leading arts and culture organizations, focusing on strategies to help them achieve financial stability.

The Initiative for Financial and Creative Health, launched in 2013, offers grant support and technical assistance to 19 of the state’s largest arts-and-culture organizations, to assist in their development and testing of capitalization strategies. The organizations are encouraged to experiment toward identifying creative products and new revenue sources that can expand participation and help the organizations thrive even during economic downturns.

Foundation for the Future

Jack was hired amid a deep recession, when the Foundation’s endowment, as was the case throughout the philanthropic sector, had experienced a significant decline. The Board, Jack, and the management team were proud that with a well-diversified portfolio, we never canceled or reduced grant awards, or reduced staff.

Today, after the handoff from Jack to Tammy, we are ready for a successful strategic-planning process to ensure that our programs are operating optimally—intersecting where they can make one another stronger, activating partner institutions across our state, and serving the people of Arizona with the greatest possible long-term impact.

Where the Flinn Foundation is in 2018—with a stable endowment and a talented, deeply engaged new executive leading an able staff—indicates the dedication and excellence of my Board colleagues over the span of decades. Our current position is also the mark of Jack’s time with us, when one leader’s lifetime commitment to Arizona aligned perfectly with a foundation’s mission.