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Learning to Bridge a Generation Gap in Philanthropy

July 14th, 2017

A decade ago, shortly before their daughter, Caitlin Heising, started her freshman year at Brown University, Liz Simons, a former teacher, and her husband, Mark Heising, the founder of an investment firm, established the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family philanthropy focused initially on education, climate and the physical sciences.

“I’ve always asked a lot of questions and have always been curious about what my parents were working on,” said Ms. Heising, who spent the summer before her sophomore year working at the foundation’s office in Los Altos, Calif. At school, she was ineluctably drawn to courses that dealt with philanthropy, human rights and the role of international nongovernmental organizations.

After graduation, with her parents’ enthusiastic assent, Ms. Heising joined the foundation’s board. “I had brought up the idea, but I don’t think I would have been as excited about it if I didn’t get the sense that they were open to my bringing my own ideas and passions as a board member,” she said. “Not necessarily to come in and shake things up drastically but to come in with new ideas.

One of those new ideas led to the foundation’s budding program in human rights. “It’s smaller than our other programs,” Ms. Heising, 27, said. “But it’s developing, and there’s room to grow.”

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