PITTSBURGH (December 16, 2021) – Two Pittsburgh leaders with deep expertise in key aspects of the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s new Strategic Plan are joining the Foundation team. Bobby Zappala, chairman of Ascender, one of the area’s leading business incubators, will be a Program Officer, focused on philanthropic investments in for-profit companies, called Social-Impact Investments. And Kevin L. Jenkins, CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, will be the Foundation’s second Prosser Mellon Fellow, a part-time post. Jenkins will focus on advancing the Foundation’s Health & Well-Being strategy, as he continues to serve as CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation.
Social-Impact Investments and Health & Well-Being are new program areas in the Foundation’s 10-year Strategic Plan, unveiled publicly in January 2021. Zappala and Jenkins will begin their duties Jan. 1, 2022.
“Our Trustees have adopted a bold Strategic Plan to guide the Foundation’s philanthropy this decade, and executing that plan with excellence requires significant staff expertise,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation. “We are deeply proud of the experts who already serve the Foundation – and now, with Bobby and Kevin joining the team, our ranks are stronger still.”
“It is meaningful to all of us that such accomplished professionals have decided to lend their considerable talents to our work,” said Reiman. “We are a lean team at the Foundation, intentionally so, because we want to focus the money available to us on philanthropic grants. That lean structure requires that every team member operate at a high level – and Bobby and Kevin have been doing high-level work in Pittsburgh for years.”
Zappala’s work will focus on Social-Impact Investments, or SII. Under SII, the Foundation invests money in for-profit companies whose mission aligns with the Foundation’s philanthropic goals. If the Foundation makes a return on a Social-Impact Investment, that principal is used to make additional Social-Impact Investments. The Foundation expects to invest at least $50 million in SII over the next 10 years, an unprecedented commitment to social-impact investing for the region.
Zappala cofounded Ascender, which has grown into one of the region’s premier destinations for entrepreneurial programming, incubation and coworking space. He recently was a Managing Partner at Localize Capital Management, an investment firm focused on patient growth and job creation. Zappala also founded Thrival Festival, an innovative conference incorporating technology, arts and culture. He remains active with Ascender, where he currently serves as the Chairman of the Board. Additionally, Zappala has advised and served on various boards of economic development-focused organizations and institutions over the past decade. Zappala is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and practiced law in Pittsburgh at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney PC.
“To have the opportunity to work for the Richard King Mellon Foundation, a visionary leader in the region for more than 70 years that has been pivotal to Pittsburgh’s evolution, is humbling,” said Zappala. “Moreover, the SII program will provide much-needed capital for impact-focused entrepreneurs in our region, and I look forward to supporting these businesses as they grow and drive positive change. I’m eager to support the Foundation’s efforts to advance this innovative investment approach to its philanthropy.”
While Zappala’s work will be focused on Social-Impact Investments, program officers at the Foundation work across all the Foundation’s strategic priorities.
Jenkins will serve up to a two-year term as a Prosser Mellon Fellow at the Foundation, focusing his work on the Foundation’s Health & Well Being program area. Fellows are high-level part-time positions that enable the Foundation to add significant new expertise. Like SII, Health & Well Being is a new program in the Foundation’s Strategic Plan. The program is dedicated to helping to ensure that everyone in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, particularly the most vulnerable, has the opportunity to live a healthy life.
Jenkins is President and Chief Executive Officer of the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC). MBC works to transform individual lives and build, strengthen and enhance communities. Jenkins is responsible for the day-to-day operations of MBC and works closely with its affiliates Bidwell Training Center, Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, and the National Center for Arts & Technology. He will continue in that role during his Fellowship. Prior to coming to MBC, Jenkins worked for The Pittsburgh Foundation, one of the nation’s oldest community foundations. At The Pittsburgh Foundation, Jenkins served as senior program officer for Health and Human Services and Community Initiative Director. He later advanced to become Vice President for Public Policy and Civic Leadership. While at The Pittsburgh Foundation, he helped lead the successful effort to rename the State Department of Public Welfare as the Department of Human Services. He was executive director of the Holy Family Institute prior to joining The Pittsburgh Foundation. Jenkins has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh and an undergraduate degree from Penn State University. He serves on a number of regional boards and committees and was appointed by the Joint State Government Commission to serve as a member of the Advisory Committee on Homelessness in Pennsylvania.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be brought on as a Prosser Mellon Fellow,” Jenkins said. “The creation of the fellows program underscores the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s unwavering commitment to improving outcomes for people in the region, and it demonstrates the robust and innovative direction of their strategic plan. My work at Manchester Bidwell Corporation has always centered around the flourishing of individuals, families and communities, so the ability to bring this same focus to the work of the Foundation is an exciting and meaningful opportunity.”
Reiman thanked Craig Markovitz, whose two-year term as the Foundation’s first Prosser Mellon Fellow will draw to a close in March. Markovitz, an entrepreneur and faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University, focused his fellowship work on the preparation and launch of the Foundation’s Social-Impact Investment strategy, including the Social-Impact Pitch Competition the Foundation currently is conducting.
“Craig’s incredible experience as both an entrepreneur and academic was exactly the expertise we needed as we built out and launched the Social-Impact Investments program,” said Reiman. “The Foundation will always be deeply grateful to Craig for doing such important work so well. We look forward to partnering with him in other ways in the future.”
About the Richard King Mellon Foundation: Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. The Foundation’s 2020 year-end endowment was $3.1 billion, and its Trustees in 2020 disbursed $130 million in grants and Program Related Investments. The Foundation focuses its funding on six primary program areas, delineated in its 2021-2030 Strategic Plan.