Tom David, Executive Vice President
om David graduated from UCLA and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in June 1970, during one of the most intense periods of the Vietnam War. Expecting to be called to active duty, he was instead permitted to go on to graduate school at UCLA, where he later received an MA in architecture and urban planning.
A number of his friends were killed in the war, and David was deeply troubled by the “twist of fate” that spared him while so many others, particularly young men of color, did not enjoy similar privilege.
“I looked on it as a gift and decided it was important that I use that gift for a social purpose, to honor the sacrifice of others,” David said.
David has used that gift to touch countless lives. Following a decidedly nonlinear career path, he has worked in such diverse fields as architecture, education, psychology, gerontology, public policy and philanthropy.
While working on his dissertation in educational psychology at the University of Chicago, David returned to California and taught at Claremont Graduate School, UC Irvine and Pacific Oaks College. A chance encounter at a conference led to
a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University, where David did research on sheltered housing for the elderly.
David next returned to UCLA to help direct an interdisciplinary training program in child and family policy funded by the Bush Foundation. He then became coordinator of clinical research at the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. His interest in foundations was piqued by his experiences at UCLA, and led
to positions as a program officer and then senior program officer at the James Irvine Foundation and vice president for programs at the S.H. Cowell Foundation.
In 1995, David joined The California Wellness Foundation as vice president of programs and was later promoted to executive vice president. David has Chinese calligraphy hanging on his office wall that translates “without self,” which he said helps him stay centered on the true purpose of his work.
“It’s about supporting the efforts of our Grantees to improve the health of the underserved — it’s not about us,” David said. The artwork on his walls is not the only evidence of his creative nature. He has a love of music as well as a collection of stones from all over the world, including Tibet, Peru, Prague and Africa. David tries to incorporate his spirituality into his work.
“The conversations we have in this work are about bigger issues than just the money,” he said. “You have to try to understand, as deeply as you can, where people are coming from and how to move toward a healthier society.”
David recently received the 2002 Terrance Keenan Leadership Award from Grantmakers In Health, in recognition of a philanthropist whose leadership and thoughtful application of grantmaking dollars have forged permanent improvements in health. David and his wife, Jane, have been married for 28 years and their son, Owen, is a freshman at Brown University.
David made the difficult decision to resign his position at TCWF as of July 2002. He will be deeply missed, but his efforts to genuinely listen to the needs of Grantees and shape the Foundation to meet those needs have made an indelible mark that will continue to influence TCWF’s work.