As chair of Meyer Memorial Trust's board of trustees, I have had the distinct honor of working side by side with Meyer CEO Michelle J. DePass since she came to lead the organization in 2018. We've become more than valued colleagues; we've become close friends and allies in Meyer's work.
So, it is with deep appreciation to Michelle that I share with you her decision to step down as CEO by the end of February 2022. Her impact on Meyer and on the communities and organizations we serve and partner with cannot be overstated. The trustees and I thank Michelle for her vision, her energy, her focus and her leadership toward racial and gender justice in Oregon.
Below is a message Michelle shared with Meyer staff yesterday. We will be sharing more in the new year about Michelle's accomplishments, what it means for Meyer going forward and how the trustees will find the right person to assume the mantle of CEO.
Michelle – thank you, again. You've led us and inspired us brilliantly.
Meyer Memorial Trust
FROM: Michelle J. DePass
TO: Meyer Staff
Dear Meyer family,
When I came to Oregon in 2018 to lead this incredible organization, I had a vision for what we could do together. And as much as I dreamt about where we could go, tapping into each other's support and energy, I am prouder and more grateful than I had imagined I could be.
Over the summer of 2021, Meyer's Board of Trustees – advancing our equity journey – unanimously approved putting racial and gender justice at the center of what we do. We undertook a deep dive into our grantmaking approaches. We developed a strategy that will chart Meyer's course for the years ahead, a trajectory guided by the needs and the wisdom of the communities we serve. I am incredibly excited for us to share more in the new year with our communities about that strategic framework and how it will strengthen our work and transform this place we call home.
In short, the trustees, our executive team and the incredible folks that make up Meyer are a privilege to lead. And while we have weathered the past two years' cavalcade of challenges, we have also done some of the most consequential work in Meyer's nearly 40-year history. Providing funds to urgent needs. Launching just-in-time initiatives while charting a strategic course for the years ahead. Completing our new and green headquarters. Exceeding all expectations on our endowment. All while managing our own lives and the needs of those around us in the midst of a global pandemic and unprecedented social and economic challenges? Nothing short of excellence! I truly cannot overstate how grateful I am to each and every one of you, and to all the Meyer staff I've had the honor of knowing.
Now, as I find myself taking stock of what is needed to move the work forward, I am also thinking about where else I need to show up, lead and care for. And what I know now with total certainty is that my family — my parents, my husband, and my young and growing boys — need me now in a way I can no longer put off.
Therefore, I have decided to step down as CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust by the end of February 2022.
Like any major life decision, it was both extremely difficult and surprisingly clear. I wrestled with it, tried to see another pathway forward, thought about what signals it might send as a woman, as a Black woman, as a CEO. For those of us in the "sandwich generation," finding ourselves juggling care of our parents and our children (and our careers), this is not an unfamiliar conversation. Fair or not, ultimately I understood what I could and couldn't sustain, and where I could and couldn't hand over responsibilities.
I am extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to lead Meyer Memorial Trust to where it is today: a foundation centered in community, rooted in Oregon and focused on racial justice. I am confident that each of you will carry that work forward in ways I cannot wait to cheer on.
I am equally grateful to Janet Hamada, our inimitable and unflinching board chair, for her friendship, leadership and wisdom. And my gratitude extends to the entire board of trustees, who are wholly supportive of my decision. Their commitment to Meyer's next 40 years is beyond reproach.
And lastly, I am grateful to my colleague and friend, Phoebe O'Leary, who has agreed to step in and step up to serve as Interim CEO after I leave. Phoebe, the board and the executive team are already putting in place a transition plan and a pathway to our new CEO in mid-2022. Until then, Phoebe and I will be even more joined at the hip as she prepares to take the helm.
I have plenty of time yet to share with you all my fondest memories and proudest moments. And I am 100 percent confident in the board and the executive team to lead us through this moment, and equally confident in every one of you that your best work is just ahead.
With love and deep gratitude,