Ambassador, Innovator and Champion of Grantees

    • February 28, 2009

Terrance Keenan, an early leader and visionary at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, passed away February 25, 2009, at the age of 85. Keenan joined the Foundation as one of its first employees, and for more than 30 years he set the standard for creativity, caring and vision.

"What made Terry so special is that he never lost sight of the people we are trying to help," said RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. "His insistence on keeping people at the center of grantmaking is what made him unique. His approach to philanthropy—that the core of foundations’ work is helping improve the health and health care of people in need—is what, in the end, has made Terry such a beloved and influential figure in our field."

The extraordinary programs and organizations Keenan forged many years ago, such as the Local Initiative Funding Partners, the Nurse Family Partnership and Grantmakers in Health, are among the most enduring of the Foundation’s contributions to serving those in need and to transforming lives for the better.

Former RWJF President Steven Schroeder called Keenan “a living embodiment of the best aspects of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.”

"I couldn’t agree more," Lavizzo-Mourey said. "Terry’s legacy is in the countless lives he has made better, and the impact he has had on the Foundation and the entire field. Some of Terry’s own words and thoughts on what makes a foundation great reflect the impact he had on our Foundation and on the entire field of philanthropy."

Keenan believed that several tenets make a foundation rise above the rest.He said that:

  • A great foundation accepts responsibility and stewardship for pursuing these purposes.
  • A great foundation walks humbly with its grantees—it acknowledges that their success is the instrument of its own success.
  • A great foundation is deliberate. It is guided by judgment. It acts where there is a need to act. It takes necessary risks—and proceeds in the face of great odds.
  • A great foundation is a resource for both discovery and change. It invests not only in the identification of answers, but also in the pursuit of solutions.
  • A great foundation is accountable. It functions as a public trust—and places its learning and experience in the public domain.
  • Finally, a great foundation is self-renewing. It adheres to a constant process of self-reflection and self-assessment. It knows when it needs to change and to adopt measures to improve its performance

"We are comforted in knowing that while Terry will be deeply missed, his legacy at RWJF and throughout philanthropy is enduring," said Lavizzo-Mourey.