Ira Hirschfield, Walter J. Haas, Betsy Haas Eisenhardt, and Robert D. Haas at Crissy Field Photo by Michael Sugrue ©

Reflecting on Ira Hirschfield’s Leadership

The Fund’s Trustees describe our departing President’s passion for philanthropy and for “lifting aspirations.

In a letter to the Fund’s partners and colleagues, Trustees Walter J. Haas, Robert D. Haas and Betsy Haas Eisenhardt offer their perspectives on Ira Hirschfield’s “visionary and highly effective” leadership. Ira “has dared so many of us to dream,” they write.

Posted in

Ira Hirschfield will be stepping down in December 2016 as President and Trustee of the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund after 28 years of visionary and highly effective leadership. Ira has been a constant source of inspiration for our family, daring us to dream and challenging us to push the boundaries of what philanthropy can help people to achieve.

What is so special about Ira is the way he encourages and supports people, organizations and communities to lift their aspirations beyond what many may have thought was possible. The results of this approach speak for themselves:

  • A historic win for marriage equality …
  • Common-sense solutions that have made California a model for smart and compassionate immigration reform …
  • The transformation of Crissy Field in San Francisco from a military airfield to a world-class National Park that now attracts 1 million visitors a year …
  • The growth of the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund into a trusted platform for thousands of Bay Area residents to help their neighbors in need, with $105 million raised to date
  • A pathbreaking initiative at U.C. Berkeley to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus, as well as unprecedented efforts to help undocumented immigrant students.

Ira understands that community-based leaders are the essential fabric of progress and social change. With Ira as President, the Haas, Jr. Fund has supported countless people to grow their skills and get the support they need to make lasting social change. Through the establishment of the Haas Leadership Initiative, Ira also has led the Fund to become a pioneer and a leading voice for increasing philanthropic investments in leadership development for organizations and social movements.

Anyone who has worked with Ira knows that he is extraordinarily passionate about philanthropy. Working first with our parents and now with our generation, he has helped us build a family foundation that aligns seamlessly with our vision of a community approach to grantmaking—an approach where you listen to diverse voices, help people and organizations articulate a shared vision, and support them in charting a clear path to realizing their dreams for building a better community and a better world.

There is a contagious energy, drive and joy in Ira’s work. He reminds us what a singular privilege it is to practice philanthropy, and to have the chance to partner with others to expand access, equality and opportunity for all people.

While the Fund’s ambitious work has often required confronting huge challenges, Ira has been a powerful advocate for learning from mistakes, adapting new strategies when needed, keeping goals in sight and sticking with them for the long haul.

After stepping down from his current role and responsibilities, Ira will hold the honorary title of President Emeritus of the Haas, Jr. Fund. In addition, he will continue working on select legacy initiatives, directing the Fund’s financial investments, and pursuing his lifelong efforts to improve and strengthen the field of philanthropy.

In the next few months, we will be launching a search for the Haas, Jr. Fund’s next leader and working to ensure a smooth and successful transition. In the meantime, we hope you will join us in honoring Ira for his leadership and service to the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, and especially for all the meaningful ways Ira has dared so many of us to dream.