Foundation Staff Farewells, Congratulations, and New Opportunities - Gates Family Foundation

As the Gates Family Foundation board and staff enter 2022 guided by a new five-year strategic plan, we’d like to pause for a moment of reflection and appreciation for three staff members whose vision and dedication have helped to shape our strategies and set our course.

Abby Schaller joined the Gates team in 2015 and currently serves as Senior Program Officer for Education. During her seven years at Gates, which will conclude on February 18 when she joins the staff of a private family office, Abby has managed the education team’s research and evaluation efforts, identified and reviewed opportunities for impact investments, and developed and implemented grantmaking programs and strategies to engage a broad set of grantees, particularly in rural areas. With keen dedication to collaboration, creativity and advancing equity, she supported a number of innovative projects throughout the pandemic and prior: the launch of Lyra Colorado and RootED, strategic and tactical support for the Governor’s RISE Fund and multi-funder COVID-19 Education Innovation Fund, and realization of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe’s dream to build its own public charter school to serve children on the reservation.

“Abby has been a tremendous partner in the Foundation’s education work,” said Senior Vice President for Education, Mary Seawell. “Her leadership has helped to shape every grant, project, and strategy – making our work more equitable and impactful for students throughout Colorado. Though we will miss her immensely, we know her future endeavors will be just as exciting and impactful.”

Russ Schnitzer joined Gates Family Foundation’s Natural Resources program as a Program Officer in Fall 2016 and then moved up to Senior Program Officer through October 2021. His work concentrated in water resources management and land conservation, where he brought both professional expertise and practical understanding of balanced water stewardship, proactive fire mitigation, and preservation of working lands and wildlife habitats. In December, Russ and his family moved to Arkansas where he works for a private philanthropic organization.

Over the past year of strategic planning, both Abby and Russ have been incredible thought partners to the entire Gates team, spending countless hours analyzing our past five years of impact, surveying and listening to constituents, and crafting new strategies that address future-facing opportunities that advance racial and economic equity and address climate impacts. Their efforts will leave indelible stamps on the Foundation, its grantees, partners, and communities across Colorado for years to come.

With these departures come new opportunities for growth among our staff. The Foundation is lucky to have Whitney Johnson stepping up into the role of Senior Program Officer for Natural Resources, where she will lead the program – and soon hire a second Natural Resources program officer to join the Gates Family Foundation team.

Whitney joined Gates in January of 2019 as a program officer for Natural Resources and Community Development. During last year’s strategic planning process, she contributed mightily to both of these programs’ analyses and strategy development, and also served as the Gates staff lead overseeing project coordination and plan production. She has spent two decades in the nonprofit sector, most recently as a Program Officer for the Anschutz Family Foundation, working on community development and economic self-sufficiency in both urban and rural Colorado. She holds a B.A. in International Studies and a Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences with a focus on community based conservation, both from Miami University of Ohio.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to carry forward the Gates Family Foundation’s long legacy of support for balanced land, water and resource stewardship, and I’m inspired by the work being done across Colorado’s diverse communities to address the growing strains on our state’s natural resources,” Whitney said. “I look forward to working with our colleagues and partners as we identify solutions and strategies to these challenges with a sense of urgency and a collaborative spirit.”

We offer our deep appreciation and congratulations to Whitney for taking on this new role – and look out soon, as we post the new open positions with Gates.

Here’s to new opportunities!