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Op-Ed Archive

When The Time Is Right

July 2011

As many of you know, I've announced my intention to retire at the end of the year. One of the first questions I'm asked about my retirement is, "Why now?" There's a country song I like titled "Timing Is Everything." While it may not be "everything," timing is certainly important when considering a leadership change. The timing of this transition is right for The California Wellness Foundation, for me and for my family.

The Foundation has a strong, stable and committed Board of Directors with the history, experience and talent to oversee the successful implementation of its mission.

The Foundation has a talented, experienced staff that operates at a high level of excellence implementing the Foundation's programs and interacting with its constituents.

The Foundation has developed a strong, operational infrastructure in support of its key program goals, principles and strategies. All key systems, policies and procedures are in place and work effectively.

I have been with the Foundation for nearly 20 years since it began operations in 1992. I've had the privilege of being president and CEO since the spring of 1994. Over this period of time, I have served in leadership roles on numerous philanthropic boards, made dozens of presentations at conferences, and became a million-mile flyer with United Airlines.

I was 17 years old when I took my first full-time job as a laborer at a brick plant in Winchester, Virginia, and I've worked every year since. I'll turn 67 this year, so that makes 50 years by my count — half a century in the old math — and that's enough for me.

My wife Ann and I have five adult sons who are all fine young men. And with three grandchildren and another on the way, it's time for me to spend more quality time with them than my job as CEO allows.

Another question about my leaving the Foundation is, "What will happen to the current grantmaking program?" Good question. When change occurs in foundations' executive leadership, grantmaking programs can also change. However, TCWF's Board has authorized the Responsive Grantmaking Program to continue through 2014. This means the Foundation will continue its responsive approach to grantmaking — responding to unsolicited letters of interest while emphasizing the provision of general operating support to sustain and strengthen organizations working to improve the health of the people of California.

I am proud of the work of TCWF and its grantees over the last two decades. A few notable examples:

  1. We have seen significant improvements in each of the Foundation's long-term commitments to preventing gun violence against youth, preventing teen pregnancy, and supporting the health care safety net.
  2. Our focus on the provision of general operating support over the last decade has helped many organizations weather two recessions and has resulted in stronger health and human service organizations in California.
  3. Our emphasis on the need to increase the health care workforce and its diversity has begun to show positive results in student populations pursuing health careers.

The Board has contracted with Morris & Berger, a Los Angeles-based executive search firm that focuses on the nonprofit sector, to conduct the search for the Foundation's next president and CEO. I have every confidence that an outstanding individual will be selected to lead the Foundation in the future.

Lastly, I am also frequently asked, "What will you do after you retire?"

In 2012, as I enter retirement, I intend to rest, relax, decompress and spend more time with family and friends. Ann and I would like to see more of California and the rest of the nation — especially the national parks — while we still have the capacity to do so.

For a few years, as a way of keeping my institutional memory and experience available, I will continue my relationship with the Foundation as a senior advisor. I'll be "on call" to the chair of the Board and/or the new president. I also hope to serve on a couple of foundation boards where I can add value.

It has been an honor and a privilege to have been able to support so many outstanding individuals and organizations for almost two decades. Thank you for the opportunity and for the great work you do on behalf of the people of California.

Gary L. Yates
President and CEO
The California Wellness Foundation

How to Apply to the Advancing Wellness Grants Program

  1. Click on How To Apply.
  2. Review the instructions for completing the online letter of interest.
  3. Click “Start a New LOI” to create an account and complete the LOI. All applicants new to the Cal Wellness Grants Portal must create a password-protected account before completing the LOI.

Our Mission

To protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California by increasing access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods.

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