NEW YORK—The Open Society Foundations today announced Chris Stone will step down as president at the end of the year. Patrick Gaspard, who has been vice president of the foundations since January, will act as president, with Leonard Benardo, regional director for Eurasia and head of the Open Society Fellowship program, acting as vice president.
“I am very proud of what has been accomplished over the past five and a half years during Chris Stone’s tenure,” said George Soros, founder and chair. “He has helped to make the Open Society Foundations a stronger and more effective organization to take on the challenges not only of the present, but the years ahead."
“With human rights and civil society threatened worldwide, the work of the Open Society Foundations and our grantees is more important than ever,” said Soros. “I am confident that together Patrick Gaspard and Leonard Benardo will provide inspiring and effective leadership in these demanding times.”
Gaspard brings a wealth of experience both inside and outside government to his new role. He was previously the U.S. ambassador to South Africa from 2013 to 2016. Prior to that, he was the executive director of the Democratic National Committee from 2011 to 2013, assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Political Affairs from 2009 to 2011, and the national political director for Obama for America in 2008. Gaspard also was the executive vice president and political director for the Service Employees International Union.
“I’m enormously grateful for the opportunity and the privilege to continue to work with George Soros, the global board, and the incredible array of talented colleagues around the world,” said Gaspard. “I am sure that I speak for all of us in my deep appreciation for the great work Chris Stone has done and I look forward to continuing to confront the enormous challenges to open society today.”
Benardo joined the Open Society Foundations in 1996. A noted authority on Russia and the Eurasia region, his writings have appeared in the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, among other publications. He is also the co-author of Brooklyn by Name: How the Neighborhoods, Streets, Parks, Bridges, and More Got Their Names and Citizen-in-Chief: The Second Lives of the American Presidents.
“For more than two decades, I’ve worked closely with George Soros,” said Benardo. “I consider this the highest honor. The opportunity to work alongside a colleague of Patrick’s stature and demonstrated commitment to open society values means the world to me.”
Stone, who has served as president since 2012, played a key role in the growth and organizational development of the Foundations. An expert in nonprofit organization, he led efforts to unify and streamline the network of more than 40 national foundations and regional and thematic programs and over 1,600 staff. He also formalized the governance of the Open Society Foundations’ global board.
Soros opened his first foundation in 1984 in his native Hungary. The Foundations today work in more than 140 countries around the world, seeking to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable to their citizens, supporting justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.