Introducing Meyer’s new CEO: Michelle J. DePass

Michelle J. DePass becomes Meyer's new president and chief executive officer, succeeding Doug Stamm on April 30. Photo credit: Michael Rubenstein Photography

I’m thrilled to announce that Michelle J. DePass will be joining Meyer Memorial Trust as our new president and chief executive officer. After an extensive search that brought us a pool of outstanding candidates, Michelle rose to the top because of her broad experience and career-long commitment to equity and social justice. On April 30, she replaces Doug Stamm, who has guided Meyer through enormous growth, innovation and change for 16 years. 
Michelle was an early leader in the environmental justice movement, and throughout her career she’s been an influential voice for equity and social justice in the governmental, academic, philanthropic and nonprofit arenas. She served in the Obama administration as assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as a program officer at the Ford Foundation and, most recently, as dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy at The New School in New York, inspiring and educating the next generation of leaders.
For nearly two decades, Michelle has sought out and excelled in roles where she can make a difference and shift the power dynamic to improve life for people of color, women, indigenous peoples and low-income communities. Now, she brings that dedication to Meyer, where she’ll lead the charge forward on the equity journey we began under Doug’s leadership.

Here’s how she explained why a New York-based national leader with roots in academia, public service, philanthropy, civil rights and the environment was drawn to this opportunity in Oregon: “Meyer Memorial Trust believes that everyone in Oregon deserves to live in a safe place, that the educational experience that we provide for our children will provide a world of opportunity, that the environment surrounding us should be a source of strength and health, and that our communities sustain us with a sense of belonging and possibility, regardless of race or class,” Michelle said. “For this to happen and make Oregon an equitable place, we must dismantle systemic oppression and have the discipline to ask ourselves over and over again: does this decision remove barriers or reinforce them? Together, I believe Meyer’s dedicated board, committed staff and fellows, and innovative grantees can pull down those barriers. That’s why I am joining the foundation, to expand opportunity by eliminating barriers.”

Then she added: “I do not want our communities to simply be resilient; I want them to thrive.”
Michelle has strong family ties to Oregon: Her husband, Joshua Paulson, is a civil rights and defense attorney from western Oregon and a graduate of Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis. In our conversations, she’s expressed a particular interest in bridging the painful divide that exists between our urban and rural populations. 

“The educational, cultural and political divides between Portland and the Willamette Valley on the one hand and the rest of the state on the other are vast,” she said “If we can begin to close these divides in Oregon, perhaps we can do so nationally as well.”
She plans to relocate with her family to Portland; her first day is set for April 30. Doug will remain with Meyer in an advisory capacity for up to six months while Michelle settles in. We are sincerely appreciative of Doug's significant contributions to the Trust during his 16-year tenure, and we will build upon the great work that he led.

Michelle’s appointment culminates a broad-based national search that began last summer. Through The 360 Group, partnering with Murphy, Symonds & Stowell of Portland, Meyer received an sizeable response to the CEO position; a diverse pool of more than 140 candidates applied, about 50 of them from Oregon, and applicants represented many types of equity perspectives and identities as well as leadership across private industry, public health, academia and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors.

We look forward to the fresh perspective, innovative spirit and energy Michelle will kindle in Meyer’s work to create a more flourishing, equitable Oregon. Please join us in welcoming Michelle to Meyer, and read her full bio to learn more about Michelle and her experience.

— Charles