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Noted Civil Rights Attorney to Head Soros’s U.S. Philanthropy

Fair housing expert served in senior government and nonprofit posts

NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today named Kenneth H. Zimmerman as the new director of its U.S. Programs. A lawyer with more than two decades of leadership in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, Zimmerman has devoted his career to justice and equality with a focus on increasing access to opportunity for people of color and low-income communities.

Zimmerman currently is a litigation partner heading the pro bono practice group at Lowenstein Sandler PC. He was part of the presidential transition team preparing the Obama Administration’s strategy for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and was senior advisor to Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan following the inauguration.

“I’m deeply honored to serve the Open Society Foundations as the head of its U.S. Programs, especially at a time when our country faces such great challenges,” said Zimmerman. “Philanthropy offers a remarkable vehicle to combine vision and resources to further our country’s core principles of fairness and opportunity. It is a privilege to join an organization that has been at the forefront of working to make these ideals a reality for all people and all communities in this country, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable.”

As director of U.S. Programs, Zimmerman will direct a grantmaking body that over the past several years has given more than $100 million annually in support to a diverse array of groups that work for equality, fairness, and justice in the United States.

“Collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit sectors is crucial to turn smart ideas and hard work into real world results,” said the Open Society Foundations incoming president Chris Stone. “Ken’s extensive experience in all three sectors makes him superbly qualified to successfully lead our U.S. work.”

“Ken is someone who knows how to leverage the assets of private philanthropy and government to get things done,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, chair of the board of the Open Society Foundations U.S. Programs.

Prior to joining Lowenstein Sandler, Zimmerman served from 2006 to 2008 as chief counsel to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine, where he played key roles in the abolition of the death penalty in New Jersey, nationally recognized efforts to reform the state’s corrections and parole systems, and revision of the state’s school funding policy to promote more equitable distribution of resources throughout the educational system.

Zimmerman in 1999 became the first executive director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a Newark-based urban “think and do” tank. While at the institute, he spearheaded passage of a landmark anti-predatory lending law, led the development of innovative employment programs for urban youth, and facilitated a broad-based re-entry initiative that engaged law enforcement, the private sector, and community-based organizations.  

He began his career as a legal services lawyer in Oakland, California where he successfully challenged discriminatory actions by FEMA in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and as a trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division where he focused on discrimination in housing and lending. 

Zimmerman is a senior non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program and advisor to Harvard Law School’s new Public Service Venture Fund.

He will start at the Foundations in July 2012.

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