E. San San Wong, Barr Foundation 

TITLE: Senior Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Arts and Creativity

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Wong has worked with a numerous foundations in major cities around the country. While introducing arts to the youth of Boston and keeping kids in tune with their culture have been huge priorities for Wong, grantmaking strategies have shifted, started in 2016 when the Barr Foundation announced a new Arts and Creativity program. 

PROFILE: E. San San Wong has been with the Barr Foundation since 2012, and she's certainly no newcomer to the world of philanthropy. In 2012, she made her way across the country from one great philanthropic city to another when she transitioned from San Francisco to Boston. These days, she's directing the Barr Foundation's Arts and Creativity portfolio, which aims to enhance the vitality of the arts in Boston.

Prior to joining the Barr team, Wong served as director of grants for the San Francisco Arts Commission. Her focus was cultural equity grants and strengthening the arts community through knowledge-building activities. Before that, she was executive director of the National Performance Network, director of development and special initiatives at Theatre Artaud, and a producer/presenter for performing arts. She's worked on the international level as a consultant, advising clients such as the Ford Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Res Artis, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Wong's resume also lists the Rasmuson Foundation, the East Bay Community Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Arts Council, for which she was a member of funding allocation panels.

Wong is the Barr Foundation's first full-time arts program officer, and she secured the gig with a unique combination of arts management and philanthropy experience. She got her start at Smith College with a bachelor's degree and then earned a master's in community psychology at New York University. Although Wong has worked primarily in San Francisco and New York, she grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts and has family ties in this area.

As Wong announced, the current Arts and Creativity program focuses on helping arts organizations be adaptive and relevant at a time when audiences for traditional art forms are declining, connecting the arts with other “sectors” such as science and technology, and advancing public support for the arts. Arts & Creativity includes key investments in programs like the Barr-Klarman Arts Capacity Building Initiative and ArtPlace America.  Grantseekers can read more here about Barr’s Arts & Creativity strategy, the grantmaking process, and how to make a grant-seeking inquiry.

Since Wong has worked with so many different types of philanthropic foundations in the past, she has done well at collaborating with other local philanthropies, such as The Klarman Family Foundation, for arts funding. In 2012, Barr also partnered with The Boston Foundation to revitalize the non-concluded Culture for Change program, which provided for youth development, racial justice education, and artistic exploration. Wong is also responsible for promoting civic arts policy and engaging new donors who are devoted to a wide span of disciplines.

Kristen Whelan, Yawkey Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer


CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Many major philanthropic foundations are now outsourcing their senior program officer positions to third-party advisory teams. Boston baseball legacy the Yawkey Foundation relies upon the services of an advisory team known as The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) to evaluate grant applications and decide which worthy non-profit organizations to support. More specifically, Yawkey depends upon Senior Program Officer Kristen Whelan to dole out the foundation's education money. Her TPI bio shares: 

Kristen Whelan researches various topics and issues of interest to clients to assist them in developing funding strategies and grants programs. Kristen also assists corporations, individual donors, and family foundations with design and implementation of their initiatives. Specific efforts include creation of a grants program to improve reading skills; development and management of a youth-focused initiative for a family foundation resulting in multi-year grants to after-school and mentoring programs in Boston; and design of a contemporary music fund to promote the proliferation and awareness of classical music composed within the 20 years. 

For the past 10 years, she has worked closely with a family foundation serving as program officer and working closely with its trustees to structure and evaluate grantmaking partnerships. She has created and manages scholarship programs for corporations and foundations to meet their specific objectives and has worked with corporations to design, manage and train employees involved in corporate giving and volunteering programs.

Kristen has a Master's degree from the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy at Tufts University, where she wrote her thesis on the benefits of strategic and integrated corporate giving programs. Prior to joining TPI in 1998 she worked in a number of nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood Clinic of Greater Boston, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Oxfam America. Kristen received her Bachelor of Arts in politics and psychology at Bennington College.

Elizabeth Pauley, The Boston Foundation

TITLE: Associate Vice President, Education to Career 

FUNDING AREAS: Education, career preparedness

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Elizabenth Pauley is the associate vice president for TBF's Education to Career initiative. Her professional bio shares: 

Elizabeth Pauley joined the Boston Foundation in 2006 as a Senior Program Officer in Education. Since then, she has led the Foundation’s programmatic work in education and has helped the Foundation achieve significant reform and impact in the field. As a thought leader in the education portfolio, she has contributed to several Foundation led initiatives, including the Race to the Top Coalition, which successfully helped pass groundbreaking education reform legislation in the Achievement Gap Act of 2010. That legislation was the key ingredient in the Commonwealth’s placement as No. 1 in the nation in the federal Race to the Top funding competition, resulting in $250 million in education reform funding flowing to the state.  She authored Toward Closing the Achievement Gap: A One-Year Progress Report on Education Reform in Massachusetts, which outlined how the 2010 legislation was initially implemented across the state.


In addition to her K-12 education leadership, Elizabeth has led the Foundation’s college completion strategy.  Central to that strategy is Success Boston, a citywide partnership to double the college completion rates for graduates of the Boston Public Schools.  Elizabeth has worked with nonprofit partners to develop and implement a coaching model that helps low-income, first generation college students as they transition from high school, through the completion of the second year of college.  In 2014, the Boston Foundation was awarded a competitive Social Innovation Fund grant by the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand the Success Boston coaching model, and beginning in 2015, will support approximately 40% of the city’s high school graduates who are pursuing a post-secondary credential.

Prior to joining TBF, Elizabeth worked at the Massachusetts Department of Education in the Commissioner's Office.  In that role, she served as the State Director of the State Action for Education Leadership Project, an initiative funded by the Wallace Foundation to improve school leadership through policy change and program investment related to the recruitment, preparation, and retention of principals and superintendents.

Elizabeth began her career as a Teach For America Corps member, teaching second and third grade in the Washington D.C. Public Schools. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education Administration, Policy, and Social Planning from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College.

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Laura Sherman, Klarman Family Foundation

TITLE: Director, Greater Boston Grantmaking

FUNDING AREAS: Public health and arts

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: Laura Sherman, the Klarman Family Foundation's Director of Greater Boston Grantmaking and former senior program officer, has spent her career in the philanthropy business, and she's seen it from quite a few angles and gotten some great perspective. Sherman has been with Klarman since 2009, but her varied experience prior to that has made her instrumental in the foundation's success.

Before joining the Klarman Family Foundation, Sherman worked for a couple of years as a program officer at the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation. Her current role might feel  familiar to her, as the two foundations have similarities; both are Boston-based philanthropies founded on the assets of wealthy businessmen. In the case of the Klarman Family Foundation, that businessman was the soft-spoken and publicly shy Seth Klarman, and the foundation has more than $255 million in assets.

Sherman also understands the flip side of the non-profit equation as well. She worked as an independent consultant to non-profit organizations for five years before diving into family foundation work. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, she served as vice president of strategic planning and development at Crittenton Hastings House, a Boston-based nonprofit aimed at housing, education, and workforce improvements. Unlike many other program officers, Sherman has worked on the outside, the inside, and on the side. She's been the one trying to get grants, help others get grants, and now decide who is worthy of grants.

Sherman earned her bachelor's degree in anthropology and liberal arts from Vassar College and an master's in health policy and management from Harvard School of Public Health. During her time at the Klarman Family Foundation, she has served as a contributing member of the State Street Foundation's youth violence prevention initiative. She's also served on the working committee of the Boston Public Schools Arts Expansion initiative, which has exposed arts education to thousands of students during the school day. However, Klarman really draws upon Sherman's background in public health, as that's one of the foundation's primary focus areas.