GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After the organization that held shape Grand Rapids’ skyline celebrated its centennial, its leader has announced her retirement.
Diana R. Sieger, who has been the president of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation since 1987, will retire sometime this year.
“I am just so grateful to this community and to this foundation and to the wisdom of the people who hired me, God rest their souls, that they did indeed hire a very young, very nervous young lady to run this foundation,” Sieger said.
The foundation aims to connect people with resources that will benefit them by providing grants to nonprofit organizations, scholarships to students and funds to other causes it finds worthwhile.
Under Sieger’s leadership, the foundation grew its funding from $38 million to $387 million annually and its staff from three to 30. She helped organize the purchase of a building in downtown Grand Rapids to be the foundation’s permanent home and helped launch the Challenge Scholars program, which aims to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college students.
“Growing up, my developmental years were the ’60s and social change for civil rights, that was my desire to just really dig in and … the fact that I’ve really done that kind of work and stuck kind of amazes me at times,” Sieger said. “Treating human beings in a very kind human fashion, providing opportunity, access, and eradicating disparities are all critically important. This community responds well to everything like that.”
Sieger said the reality will hit her eventually as she’s trying to figure out what to do in retirement after devoting each day for decades to positive social change. She said she will carry the call to service with her as she watches the foundation build on the footprint she left.
“There is so much hope for the future and the fact that the community foundation is really aligned with community,” Sieger said. “I feel stronger and stronger about that as I’ve made the decision to retire.”
She has served in leadership positions on several boards, committees and councils across Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan and the nation. She is proud of bringing forward voices that may have otherwise gone unheard and aligning funders with opportunities to create change.
“The direction that we have been moving in for years is really being open to all communities within the greater Grand Rapids community and building networks in those communities that may not have known of our existence. And I know this is going to sound trite, but it’s listening to voices that have never been heard before by the foundation,” Sieger said of the direction the foundation is headed. “We have what we call our identity-based funds — the Somos Comunidad Fund, the Black Legacy Fund and the LGBTQ Fund. Those voices need to be heard.”
The foundation’s Board of Trustees has established a search committee made up of current trustees and volunteers to find the next president. They said they will hire a search firm to aim to fill the position by the fall.
“I have been honored to serve this Community Foundation and our community,” Sieger stated. “I am proud of our efforts to lead the community to strengthen the lives of its people. The efforts of trustees, staff, donor, community and nonprofit partners have been an inspiration to me during my career, and I know there are many who will continue to work with passion for the future of the Community Foundation and Kent County.”