The Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments has named Grant Oliphant as the charity's new president.
Oliphant previously spent more than 10 years with the Heinz Endowments in various senior management roles before spending the last six years as chief executive officer of another charity, the Pittsburgh Foundation.
“I’ve known the family for a long time,” Oliphant said. “I used to work for John Heinz in the U.S. Senate in the late '80s and up until his death in 1991. I have a deep, personal connection with the values of the family. The Heinz Endowments is the vehicle for delivering those values in Pittsburgh philanthropically, and I am just so honored to step into that role.”
Oliphant replaces Robert Vagt, who left in January after heading the Heinz Endowments since 2008. He left to become chairman of Canonsburg-based natural gas drilling firm, Rice Energy, Inc. Vagt played a key role in the formation last year of the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, a coalition of foundations, environmental groups and natural gas drillers. But other leading environmental groups criticized the effort.
Oliphant said he’s looking forward to addressing multiple areas such as the environment and protection of the environment, education, early childhood development and the arts. He said Pittsburgh is at a pivotal point and has the opportunity to continue with some positive trends helped along by new leadership in the city, but he said some challenges remain.
“Some of those challenges have to do with the lingering effects of the economic downturn, the hardship people face in and around our community, the dynamic of what we call ‘the other Pittsburgh’ which is the ongoing problem of poverty in our community; the issue that we still face around race,” he said. “If we want to continue moving forward and really be the best place in America for everybody who lives here, and not just for a few, we have our work cut out for us still.”
Oliphant is expected to start by June. The Pittsburgh Foundation hopes to replace Oliphant by the fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.