The John R. Oishei Foundation has announced that it will name its fellowship program for nonprofit leaders of color in honor of Karen Lee Spaulding who has been central to the conception, development, and management of the initiative. The fellowship, now to be called “The Karen Lee Spaulding Oishei Fellowship for Leaders of Color” was created in 2019 as part of the Foundation’s focus on racial equity and in response to a compelling need for nonprofit leadership cultivation, particularly among people of color in the WNY region.
Spaulding, who announced her retirement effective at the end of 2021, currently leads the Oishei Office of Philanthropic Support that has a focus on building capacity and leadership within the nonprofit community in WNY. Through her work, the Foundation was able to identify a critical need to build the next generation of nonprofit leadership and that the need for leaders of color is particularly acute. In response, Karen researched leadership programs, tapped into her professional networks, and convened nonprofit professionals of color to determine how to design and run an effective program. Since 2019, three cohorts of BIPOC professionals have been convened and undergone rigorous personal and professional leadership training through the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership training.
“Without Karen’s diligent research, meticulous planning, tenacious spirit, and most of all, her ability to listen and truly hear, the Fellows program may not have gotten off the ground. She has created a wonderful space for leaders of color to come together, build connections, and strengthen their personal and professional development. While Karen has brought so much to the Foundation with her “beyond grantmaking” focus, we believe her true legacy will be with the Oishei Fellowship. We thought it was fitting to name the Fellowship in her honor as she retires, so that her wisdom, empathy, and generous spirit will forever be associated with the tremendously valuable program that she has built for our community,” commented Robert D. Gioia, President of the Oishei Foundation.
A new logo and brand identity for the program that includes Karen’s name have been created for use on all program materials in the future. The new mark includes 24 connected and colorful circles to signify each diverse cohort participant, their connections to each other, and a nod to the “O” in the Oishei Foundation logo. The circle also refers to “circle time” when each Fellow presents a personal or professional vision stand on the first and last day of the training. The identity was created on behalf of the Foundation by designer Molly Marietta.
The leadership training program, conducted virtually due to the pandemic for the 2020 and 2021 cohorts rather than as an in-person retreat, is an intensive 5-day program free to the participants. Interest in the program continues to be strong, indicating a significant need in the Buffalo Niagara region for leadership development and due to the enthusiastic experiences of those in earlier cohorts. Past participants have called the program “transformational” and “life-changing.”
Each cohort is thoughtfully vetted and chosen by Rockwood Leadership Institute with a focus on 24 self-identified leaders of color who express commitment to collaboration, partnership, and serving as connecting resources for the region. The cohort includes a complex balance of gender, age, spiritual practice, leadership experience, service type, and issue area.
Karen will retire from the Oishei Foundation after eight years leading the Office of Philanthropic Support. She previously was with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (now the Buffalo AKG Art Museum) for 36 years. The search for her successor is currently underway.
The John R. Oishei Foundation is the most comprehensive private foundation in Western New York focusing on a broad range of interrelated issues and offering philanthropic support that goes far beyond funding. Our mission is to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership, and network building. The Foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corporation.