Generational Shift at Pittsburgh's Family Foundations May Portend Changes

A generational shift at some of Pittsburgh's biggest family foundations is causing some observers to wonder whether it will effect how — and where — the foundations spend their assets in the future.

While the addition of younger family members to foundation boards could inject new life and attitudes into institutions that award grants totaling hundreds of millions of dollars every year, it may also result in significant changes — especially when younger board members live in other areas of the country. Of the five family members now on the board of the McCune Foundation, for example, only chairman Jamie Edwards lives in the Pittsburgh area. With family members in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Texas, and Oklahoma, about 20 percent of the foundation's grants are awarded outside southwestern Pennsylvania.

Similarly, while the three sons of the late Sen. John Heinz (R-PA) sit on the boards of the Heinz Endowments, headed by their mother, Teresa Heinz Kerry, all live outside Pennsylvania and none has a permanent residence in the Pistburgh area. And at the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, which was created by the founder of Alcoa, the new executive committee chair, John Hunt, lives in New Hampshire, while only seven members of the eighteen-person board live in the Pittsburgh area. "[The] family is all over the country," said foundation director Bea Carter, the first non-family member to run the foundation. "Probably a third of our grant money stays in Pittsburgh. A lot of it's practical. The trustees become involved with organizations or become interested in organizations where they reside." The same shift away from Pittsburgh, she added, is happening with the Alcoa Foundation.

According to one foundation official in the area, the more younger family members decide to live elsewhere, "the will be for Pittsburgh. Go a generation or two forward and I doubt a great deal of their money will be given here. Grant money goes where people live."

However, not everyone agrees that a changing of the guard at Pittsburgh's big family foundations will result in "a full-scale back-turning" on the region. "My guess is there will not be [a] major change in emphasis from western Pennsylvania," said George Greer, chairman of the Pittsburgh-based Eden Hall Foundation. "I think there is a sense of indebtedness to the communities that helped create the wealth.