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Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s John Davies Announces Retirement

In his 33-year tenure, BRAF grew to $722 million in assets, changed the region

John G. Davies, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, announced Wednesday that he plans to retire at the end of the year. Davies has led the Foundation for 33 years, increasing total assets in that span from $5 million to $722 million.

Davies, 71, made the announcement at the Foundation’s annual meeting of members and fund donors at the Manship Theater in the Shaw Center for the Arts, which was among signature projects of the organization in its successful collaboration to revive downtown.

“My work for the Foundation is my life’s work,” Davies said. “I am extraordinarily proud of the achievements that our team has delivered to our community. I cannot imagine a more fulfilling career. Much good has been done and much important work lies ahead. I look forward to witnessing the achievements that the Foundation will register in the future.”

Foundation Chair Jennifer Eplett Reilly and Past Chairs William E. Balhoff and Dennis Blunt will lead a national search to find a new CEO and president, with the new leader expected to be hired by late fall.

“John Davies is an exceptionally visionary, strategic, engaging and entrepreneurial foundation leader,” said Jennifer Eplett Reilly, Foundation chair. “He has grown the Baton Rouge Area Foundation exponentially in assets during his tenure.”

Continued Reilly, “John and his team have launched a myriad of innovative collaborations that have changed our community and our everyday life for the better, including Plan Baton Rouge, the Shaw Center for the Arts, the Water Institute for the Gulf, New Schools for Baton Rouge, the Bridge Center and BREADA Farmers’ Market. He has become an international voice for community philanthropy, assisting in the development of community foundations around the world. His life work has resulted in truly transformative shifts, here in Baton Rouge and far beyond.

“Baton Rouge and the Foundation have benefitted for years from John’s passion and vision,” said Balhoff. “I know that he will continue to support the Foundation and our community for years to come.”

During Davies’ tenure, which began in 1988, the Foundation has granted more than $550 million to nonprofits and for projects, thanks to generous donors.

The Foundation has also collaborated during his time on visible, large-scale projects to improve civic life, led human services initiatives to improve well-being, supported science organizations, such as Pennington Biomedical, and developed real estate in challenging areas of the parish.

The work includes Plan Baton Rouge, the master plan that guided a downtown revival, with the Foundation taking on key recommendations of the blueprint to fulfill the underlying goal: downtown as a place that welcomes everyone and offers places to reside, work and be entertained. To that end, the Foundation, via the Wilbur Marvin Foundation, built three apartment buildings on or near the riverfront, developed the IBM building and rehabbed the Hilton Hotel.

Other Foundation-led projects include the formation of New Schools for Baton Rouge, a nonprofit that is successfully drawing the nation’s best nonprofit schools to the parish, and the Bridge Center for Hope, which cares for people who are in the grips of a crisis caused by mental health problems or addictions.

Davies will continue as chairman of the Wilbur Marvin Foundation. In that capacity, he will work with Commercial Properties Realty Trust to build out The Water Campus, a 35-acre research park which brings together water scientists and engineers to provide solutions for adapting to rising seas and vanishing wetlands.

At its annual meeting last evening, the Foundation’s members elected new directors. Dr. Karen R. Williams, a retired pediatrician, and Scott N. Hensgens, managing partner of Breazeale, Sachse & Wilson, were elected to their first, three-year terms. Members also approved Charles W. Lamar III of Woodland Investments, Todd S. Manuel of Entergy Corp. and Nicklos S. Speyrer of Emergent Method to second, three-year terms.

Because the Foundation canceled last year’s annual meeting, the members this year ratified the selection of last year’s board nominees. Elected to first terms were Thomas J. Adamek of Stonehenge Capital, Beverly M. Haydel of Sequitir Consulting, Jeffrey W. Koonce of Bernhard Capital Partners and Linda O. Posner, a retired attorney. Rodney C. Braxton of Southern of Strategy Group was chosen to a second term.

The Foundation also reported total assets, unaudited, of $722 million at year-end 2020, up from $678 million in the previous year. People and businesses donated $44.2 million to the Foundation and its affiliates – the Northshore Community Foundation in Covington and the Foundation for Southwest Louisiana in Lake Charles. Together, they granted $36 million in 2020.