Celebrating 30 Years of the Johnson Center
Bridging Research and Practice in Philanthropy Since 1992

Three decades ago, the philanthropic sector saw the need to build a direct route from the creation of knowledge to its application in communities. The Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership — now the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy — was established at Grand Valley State University with that vision.

The Johnson Center is home to the nation’s first endowed chairs in family and community philanthropy, the first peer-reviewed journal of philanthropy, the first university-based professional development program for grantmakers, groundbreaking research on giving circles and donor-advised funds, and more.

A Look Back

Leaders in Philanthropy: History of the Johnson Center

Since 1992, leaders from the Johnson Center have been in the rooms where big ideas and sector-shifting movements take shape. Explore the 30-year timeline to learn more about our leadership, partnerships, initiatives, and influence.

Johnson Center Leadership, 1992–2022

Photo: Thomas Jeavons

Dr. Thomas Jeavons

Photo: Dott Freeman

Dr. Dorothy (Dott) Freeman

Photo: Donna Van Iwaarden
Dr. Donna Van Iwaarden

Photo: Joel Orosz
Dr. Joel Orosz
Interim Director
2005– 2006

Photo: Kathy Agard
Dr. Kathryn (Kathy) Agard
Executive Director

Photo: James Edwards
Dr. James Edwards
Executive Director

Photo: William Crawley
Dr. William Crawley
Interim Director

Photo: Beverly Grant
Beverly Grant, M.S.W.
Interim Director

Photo: Kyle Caldwell
Kyle Caldwell, M.A.
Executive Director

Photo: Teri Behrens
Dr. Teresa (Teri) Behrens
Executive Director

Looking Forward: A New Chapter of Leadership

In April 2023, the Johnson Center welcomed Dr. Lesley D. Slavitt as our new executive director! A seasoned philanthropic leader, Lesley has worked in partnership with community stakeholders throughout her career. Having devised and guided initiatives addressing economic empowerment, arts and culture, pre-K–16 educational success, and disaster relief and recovery, she has an integrative understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

Special Report

Philanthropy 1992–2022: What Difference Can 30 Years Make?

In a new retrospective, Michael Moody explores what the field of philanthropy looked like in 1992, as well as the remarkable transformation and growth of the sector since then. The report reveals how the practices of giving, the makeup and number of institutions, and both the intensity and breadth of research and teaching about philanthropy have all expanded and changed in dramatic ways in the past three decades. Dr. Moody also examines how other aspects of the field and its institutions have endured — and not always for the better.

Annual Report 2022-23: Celebrating 30 Years of the Johnson Center

In our 30th year, the Johnson Center welcomed a new executive director, pursued new and unique research projects, and shared timely conversations with international peers and partners. Explore our history and look to the future in our 2022-2023 annual report.