Category Archives: Jackson Legacy

Farewell to President Emeritus of the Foundation Bill Van Ness

The Jackson Foundation and the extended Jackson family recently lost its founder and rock with the passing of Bill Van Ness. Bill served as the Foundation’s President of the Board for 20 years. But Bill made his mark upon this world in many ways. As a devoted family man, Bill and Pat, his wife of 58 years, had four children, who invariably could be found visiting him at his cabin on the Olympic Peninsula along with their broods of kids. And he founded a successful law firm, Van Ness Feldman, which continues on two coasts doing important, policy-relevant law.

I always found the scene a bit incongruous when I visited Bill at his beach cabin – the brilliant lawyer, one of the sharpest legal minds, the staffer who worked with Senator Jackson to draft the ground-breaking National Environmental Policy Act  – in his work overalls, bossing around the grandchildren as they dug for clams or dragged their little wooden boat across the grass. In that setting, Bill was relaxed, focused on being a good host, getting his guests a beer or a coke, showing off his freshly varnished teak tables, offering clams or salmon fresh from Puget Sound.

Bill in his classic mode – grilling salmon at a Scoop’s Troops event

But that was Bill –a country boy, who grew up in Montana and Washington State and raised himself into a professional career by his bootstraps and with a mind like a steel trap. University of Washington Law School led him to work for Senator Jackson, a partnership that lasted Jackson’s life time, even after Bill left to found his own law firm with his close colleague, Howard Feldman.

Bill and his law partner and friend, Howard Feldman

I came to know Bill as my boss and mentor and as a father figure. Bill was tough –schooled before the days of giving prizes and praise no matter what you did – but if you performed, you knew it. One “you did good” from him meant the world. He could be gruff but you knew he had heart – he couldn’t hide it.

Bill taught me how to write and edit (if only from reading his scrawled notes in the margin), how to anticipate questions from readers and audiences (“never ask a question you don’t know the answer to”), how to provide sufficient background to set the stage for an argument (preferably a fat briefing book of memos and research), how to be political and ensure that you had your ducks in a row before a big, important meeting. He also taught me by example about integrity. Rigorous in everything he did, he never cut corners. It was a key lesson.

Bill with Senator Jackson

Because he was dedicated to Scoop Jackson and all that he stood for, Bill couched much of his world view in Jackson’s values: “good judgment” was the ultimate compliment he could pay you. He valued balanced reporting, scholarship, and loyalty. He was a big picture thinker – one of his law partners once said that Bill might have ten ideas at once and one of them would be brilliant – yet he sweated the details too.

Bill dedicated himself to the Jackson Foundation in ways large and small, taking on the role of president as more of a day-to-day task, calling me 5-6 times a day with an idea, an edit, or to tell me to fax him something. He loved that fax machine. As the ultimate staffer, he taught me how to staff. I could imagine how well he had staffed Senator Jackson in the way that he modeled being prepared, being thorough, vetting everything, thinking ahead. After Jackson’s death he staffed Helen Jackson, Scoop’s widow, by conceiving of and creating the Jackson Foundation to carry on Scoop’s work as well as we could. The man behind the scenes, Bill wanted the Foundation to succeed and happily gave the credit to others for those successes.

A look backward – over 20 years ago, Lara and Bill

We will miss Bill, for his contributions to the Jackson Foundation and to the Jackson legacy. And we will miss his close attention to what matters most in life: family, loyalty, friends, colleagues, and good values.

You did good, Bill.

 

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Passing the torch to new Jackson ambassadors

One of the less obvious reasons for starting the Jackson Leadership Fellows Program was selfish on our part: we hoped to generate interest in a new generation of Puget Sound-based professionals in serving on the Jackson Foundation Board. This would be a way, we believed, we could continue the legacy of Senator Jackson once those on our Board, who knew him well, stepped down. Teaching others about Jackson’s principles and values ensured that the Foundation would always have eager, enthusiastic Board members willing to step up and hold up the Jackson banner.

Well, it worked. We are proud to be welcoming our first class of new Program Committee members to our ranks, in the form of three of our Fellows: Radha Friedman, Nora Ferm Nickum, and Alex Adams. The Program Committee is where the substantive work of the Foundation is housed: it is the committee that reviews the grants and programs put forward by staff, provides a mandate for strategies and tactics as to how to be most effective, and recommends to the Executive Committee proposals to be funded. In short, it is a perfect starting place for these three, highly professional and expert young leaders.

Radha is the Director of Programs at the World Justice Project, where she leads a portfolio of pilot programs in 60 countries to advance the rule of law. She is deeply committed to human rights and women’s rights. She is also active with the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and the Northwest Donor Exchange, so she will hit the ground running in her new role as a Program Committee member. About this opportunity, Radha says: “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue my connection to the Foundation through the Program Committee, and to learn more about the projects and programs supported by the Foundation, which represent the legacy and spirit of Senator Jackson.”

Alex currently works for the King County Department of Transportation Director’s Office as Climate Change and Energy Program Manager, seeking to implement greenhouse gas reduction strategies identified in King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan. Alex is well-versed in climate issues as they relate to the Pacific Northwest, which will aid the Foundation in its work on climate and national security and in finding effective ways to use the Foundation’s resources on climate concerns in general. Alex has also worked extensively with students of all ages in his previous work as a boat captain, leading semester-long ocean education trips aboard tall sailing ships in the waters between Nova Scotia and Trinidad. Given the Foundation’s commitment to public service, he will contribute an important perspective.

Finally, Nora, who is a Senior Associate at Cascadia Consulting Group, also is fluent in climate change and natural resources planning issues. She works with cities, tribes and foundations, focusing on stakeholder engagement, evaluation and communications. Nora previously spent five years as a Senior Climate Adaptation Specialist at the U.S. Agency for International Development, so Nora is well-poised not only to provide guidance and expertise to the Program Committee on climate, but also brings an international perspective that will inform us in our work in international affairs education and human rights. Nora says: “I really value the opportunity to be part of the Program Committee. I see it as a way to deepen my engagement with the Foundation after a really rewarding fellowship experience, learn more about philanthropic decision-making, and contribute my own expertise in national and international climate change policy.”

We are delighted that these Jackson Leadership Fellows have joined the ranks of the Foundation’s governance on the Program Committee.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

2017 Jackson Fellows Go to Washington, D.C.

I’ve just had the privilege to spend three days with our cohort of Jackson Leadership Fellows as they attended meetings in Washington, DC, as part of the culmination of their program.  What an experience!  As Board President John Hempelmann and Board member Susan Wickwire, who accompanied the group, agreed, this was a much-needed antidote to the political blues and skepticism that have infected many of us in this gridlocked and polarized time. The optimism, engagement, and commitment of this extraordinary cadre of young leaders – from 26 – 40 years old – provide a reason to embrace the future of our communities and our nation with a degree of hope.

Roger-Mark De Souza of the Wilson Center introducing Jackson Fellows Connor Birkeland, Radha Friedman, and Amarpreet Sethi

The Fellows, who have been meeting monthly and receiving professional guidance and leadership training from an array of experts here in the Northwest, went to Washington to showcase their talents, introduce the program to other young people – in this case a packed room full of Washington DC interns – and meet the Washington Congressional Delegation, among other meetings.

The Fellows, with Board members John Hempelmann, far left, and Susan Wickwire, (3rd from right) meeting with Senator Patty Murray
The Fellows meeting with Senator Maria Cantwell

The jam-packed agenda included a private discussion with four Members of the House of Representatives from Washington State, who candidly shared their thoughts of current political developments with the Fellows and took their questions, and both of Washington’s powerful senators, who took the time to get to know our Fellows and the work they are doing back here in Puget Sound.

Congressmen Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer with Fellow Hans Zeiger, center
Congresswoman Suzan DelBene talks with Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott and Alyssa Patrick

The Fellows were also exposed to two panels featuring long-time public servants discussing their work in Washington, DC, their ability to work across changing political administrations, and their reasons for choosing public service as a career.

Jackson Fellows Kiana Scott (speaking), Hans Zeiger (l)  and Nora Ferm Nickum (r)  were featured on a panel about public service

Along the lines of discussing public service, one of the highlights of the trip was a half-day at the Wilson Center which featured two different dialogues about the challenge of careers in government and public service that shone a spotlight on the Fellows and the insights that they shared.

A full house of Washington, D.C. interns with questions for the panel

Overall the trip was a substantive way to bring the 2017 Fellows Program to a close — and a wonderful way for us to bond with our extraordinary young ambassadors for the Jackson legacy.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

Farewell to Jelena

Life in a nonprofit can be challenging. Resources are usually stretched thin and the work is generally more than people can handle in a normal working day. People who devote themselves to the nonprofit sector have to believe that the work they are doing matters – to themselves, their colleagues, the community, and to the other nonprofits with whom they work.

Such is the case at our Foundation with its small staff. And no one has exemplified that dedication to the greater good more than our office and finance manager, Jelena Jurkovic, who retires this month after 18 years of service to the Jackson legacy. Jelena is one of those unsung heroes who make organizations work well. When sifting through photos in advance of honoring her, I couldn’t help but be struck by how few photos there were of her – instead, others are at the podium, giving the talks, leading the crowd. Yet Jelena’s quiet and critical role resulted in full lecture halls; well-prepped and organized board meetings; and thoughtful, accurate briefing materials. While this does not always make for headlines or glory, in the nearly two decades that I have worked with Jelena, her spirit, warmth, dedication to mission, commitment to her colleagues, and professionalism have meant the world to all of us. When I sent out emails to former colleagues about Jelena’s decision to retire, responses were quick and heartfelt. Board members have been equally effusive about Jelena and the role that she has played here at the Foundation. While we will hire other staff, her shoes will be hard to fill.

Jelena’s first week at the Foundation celebrating Scoop’s Troops at Helen Jackson’s home in Everett
Jelena and Anna Marie Laurence at the party in Jelena’s honor

At a farewell event for Jelena last night, Anna Marie Laurence, Board member and daughter of Senator Jackson, praised Jelena and said, “My father liked to say, ‘Whatever you do in life, always do it with excellence.’ This is what Jelena did.” Board member Joel Merkel expressed that he was honored to call Jelena a friend and emphasized, as did other speakers, the genuine and heartfelt nature of Jelena’s relationships with others. He concluded, “Thank you, Jelena, for your friendship and your service to the Jackson Foundation. We will miss your daily presence but we will never forget you and we all hope to maintain the relationship.”

Jelena and Joel Merkel

When you work together, day after day, you come to be a family. Such it has been, to our great good fortune, to work together with Jelena at the Jackson Foundation. With Jelena’s retirement to sunnier climes and the pull of her loved ones, we lose an essential part of our extended Jackson Foundation family. As Foundation President John Hempelmann said last night, “while we will miss her, whenever we think of Jelena, we will smile.”

Jelena and John Hempelmann

We wish Jelena the best of luck in her retirement and we will retain fond memories of our many laughs and shared concerns over the years together.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director