Princeton, N.J.—The Board of Trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has elected two new Trustees, effective January 26, 2022: Edgar Villanueva and Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson.
“RWJF is proud to welcome two nationally recognized champions of health and racial equity to our Board of Trustees,” said Richard Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Foundation. “Edgar Villanueva is boldly challenging philanthropy and other sectors to examine how its practices perpetuate the racial wealth gap and racial inequality in our country. The Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson is a long-established leader and advocate for policies to better the health and well-being of children, their families and communities. Their insights and experiences will make important contributions to the Foundation’s vision of ensuring that everyone in America has a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.”
Board Chair Kathryn S. Fuller, JD, stated: “Each of us on the RWJF Board looks forward to the perspectives our new Trustees will bring to the table. Their deep grounding in philanthropy as well as their understanding of communities where the resource needs are so great will inform and enrich our work to foster a Culture of Health for everyone in America.”
About the New Trustees
Edgar Villanueva, MHA, is a noted author, activist, and expert on social justice philanthropy. He is founder and principal of the Decolonizing Wealth Project (DWP) and author of Decolonizing Wealth. The 2018 bestselling book, now in its second edition, calls for a modernization of philanthropic practice to address daunting racial wealth gaps and inequality in the nation. The book led him to establish DWP and its accompanying fund, Liberated Capital, to increase resources to Black, Indigenous, and other people-of-color communities.
Villanueva advises organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to global and national philanthropies and nonprofits on advancing racial equity and healing. He holds a bachelor’s degree in health policy and administration and a master’s in healthcare administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
"I'm deeply honored to join the board of RWJF at this historic time when the philanthropic sector is recognizing its critical role in advancing the work of racial equity and healing across this nation,” said Villanueva. “I’m excited to support its efforts to change the way we as a nation view public health and to place an emphasis on how historical social and racial dynamics drive determinants of health and well-being today.”
Rev. Starsky Wilson, D.Min., is president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and CDF Action Council. Since 1973, CDF has worked to advance child-centered public policies. From 2011 through 2020, Wilson was president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation, a faith-based philanthropy for child well-being and racial justice in St. Louis. During most of his time at Deaconess, he also served as pastor of St. John’s Church, a multiracial congregation in the city. Under his leadership, Deaconess constructed and established the Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, a community action tank engaging more than 15,000 citizens annually. After the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, Jr., in Ferguson, Missouri, Wilson was named co-chair of the Ferguson Commission, which released the ‘Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity’ Report, that called for sweeping changes in policing and the courts, and for improved child well-being systems and economic mobility.
Wilson is board chair for the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and chair of the Forum for Theological Exploration. He also serves on boards for CDF Action Council, Duke Divinity School, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and Sojourners. Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, a Master of Divinity degree from Eden Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Duke University.
“I am honored to join the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Board and look forward to bringing the communities that shape and ground me to the strategy table,” Rev. Wilson said. “Philanthropy, public policy, and community power are keys to unlocking child well-being, racial justice and health equity. RWJF is well-positioned to help open these doors.”