As president and CEO, Judy Belk leads The California Wellness Foundation in pursuing its mission to protect and improve the health and wellness of the people of California, with a core belief that access to quality health care is a human right. Cal Wellness began grantmaking in 1992 when Health Net, one of California’s largest health care and insurance providers, converted from nonprofit to for-profit status, establishing one of the largest “health care conversion” foundations at the time. Today, the foundation’s assets are more than $900 million, and it awards approximately $35 million in grants annually to support access to health care, quality education, good jobs, healthy environments and safe neighborhoods. Cal Wellness is known nationally for its funding of violence prevention efforts and for a leading role in preventing gun violence.
In her role as CEO, Belk uses her vision and her voice to help Cal Wellness “level the playing field” and fulfill the vision of functioning as a social justice public health funder. Since her appointment in April 2014, Belk has focused on strengthening several key areas of foundation operations and worked with board and staff to develop the organization into a more accessible and vocal grantmaking institution. She championed the addition of two initiatives to the foundation’s grantmaking that will invest $13 million in health issues that disproportionately impact women of color and the implementation of a mission-related investing strategy to leverage more of the foundation’s financial resources. With the full support of the foundation’s board of directors, she works to integrate Cal Wellness’ commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion into every aspect of the foundation’s operations.
Belk is a seasoned leader with more than 25 years of senior management experience in the philanthropic, government, nonprofit and corporate sectors. Before joining Cal Wellness, she served as senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a position she held since 2002. Previously, Belk served as vice president of global public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., reporting directly to the chairman and CEO.
Belk is a frequent writer and speaker on organizational ethics, race and social change, and her work has been recognized with several state and national awards. Her pieces have aired on National Public Radio and appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Blog posts on the foundation’s website have addressed the impact of gun violence on families and communities, argued the imperative of safe drinking water and advocated for better access to oral health care for seniors.
Throughout her career, Belk has been a strong advocate in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion both within and outside of the philanthropic sector. She has been a passionate voice in raising awareness of the needs of women and girls, as well as communities of color.
She currently serves on the boards of the Surdna Foundation, a national New York-based family foundation, and Hedgebrook, a women’s writing retreat in the state of Washington that promotes women’s voices and social change. She is also an advisory board member for the University of California Firearms Violence Research Center, the first state-supported institution of its kind in the country. Past board service includes the Marlborough School, a Los Angeles-based independent school for girls, Southern California Grantmakers, National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Belk received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and her master’s degree in public administration from California State University, East Bay, where she was recognized as the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
Belk has lived and worked in California her entire professional career. A current resident of Los Angeles, she is a native of Alexandria, Virginia, where, in 2013, she was inducted into the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. She is married to Roger Peeks, M.D., who currently serves as medical director, strategic development of Valley Community Healthcare in North Hollywood. They have two adult children.