Coolidge Foundation Plans To Go National

February 11, 2014

in Archive,News,Plymouth

(This story was first published in the Feb. 6, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff

PLYMOUTH NOTCH — To better focus on attracting a national audience, the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation has hired two nationally experienced people — a new executive director and a chief executive officer.

Amity Shlaes, the chair of the board of trustees, has been given additional duties as the foundation’s first CEO. Matthew Denhart, the author of “Growth and Immigration,” a handbook about economics and immigration, was hired as the executive director in December.

Together, the two will focus on national fundraising and bringing more people to the foundation.

“It’s very difficult to go national without a national orientation,” Shlaes said. “Because we’ve both worked in big think tank lands in other states, we may hopefully be able to bring some perspective.”

The foundation’s had a national initiative since about 2009, but it’s struggled to gain footing outside of the region.

“It really hasn’t received the national recognition that a presidential foundation deserves,” said Jim Douglas, former Vermont governor and current foundation trustee.

This past year, the foundation hosted programs such as a high school economic debate, which included a writing contest initiated by Shlaes. It also held a gala award dinner in New York City last November to honor authors who write in the “spirit and style of President Calvin Coolidge.”

“Last year, the foundation was able to raise enough to fund our new prize and all this year’s activities, including employment. For the first time in a number of years, the foundation is able to expand,” said Denhart in an email.

He said the foundation is able to support a $20,000 prize for the Coolidge Prize for Journalism, the $1,500 Calvin Prize for Vermont Youth and new lectures up and down the East Coast.

Denhart replaces former executive director David Serra, who increased membership by 20 percent and wrote a strategic fundraising plan, before leaving the organization due to tension between him and the foundation’s trustees. Denhart is the foundation’s sixth executive director in about six years. He’s eager to bring more people to the foundation and to explain who Coolidge was.

“I think there’s a lot more people should know about Coolidge,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Denhart just moved to Lebanon, N.H. and will run the day-to-day operations of the foundation while Shlaes, who is a columnist in Forbes Magazine and teaches at New York University’s Stern School of Business, will focus on building external partnerships to attract resources and members.

The two already have experience working together. They both worked at the George W. Bush Presidential Center for a couple years during the launch of the organization. Denhart was a researcher who worked closely with Shlaes.

“Amity was my mentor there,” Denhart said.

Shlaes said the board of trustees made an unanimous vote to have a CEO. Her position is supported by a four-year grant that came from a group of donors, including the Thomas W. Smith Foundation and Ravenel B. Curry, III.

“We’re not putting any burden on the foundation,” Shlaes said. “We don’t want to take too much money out of the foundation.”

She said it’s too early to say how the CEO position will be funded after the grant money is expended in four years.

The foundation is currently on the lookout for another staff member to work with Denhart.

“I think the future of the foundation is very bright.” Douglas said.


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