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Stephen Johnson

Advisor, leader, manager, and donor, for almost four decades Steve Johnson has brought his practical idealism to the fields of philanthropy, law, and public policy. He currently serves as a trusted advisor to foundations, nonprofit organizations, wealthy families and individuals, and sits on half a dozen foundation and nonprofit boards. His special interests include foundation start-ups, strategic planning, governance, trustee succession, next generation training, and program design and implementation. 

Until October 2016 Steve served as Executive Director of the Phyllis and Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation (2012-2016), prior to which he spent 13 years with The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), working with families, foundations and corporations worldwide to achieve their philanthropic and social investment objectives.  He has guided his own family foundation’s work in the Champlain Basin for nearly 30 years.

A principal author of the Code of Ethics for U.S. philanthropy advisors, in his years with TPI Steve worked to advance the scope and quality of philanthropy in the U.S. and abroad.  He led TPI’s work to study and improve the philanthropy-related practice of legal and financial advisors, a subject on which he wrote extensively and spoke regularly both nationally and abroad, as well as training countless relationship managers at some of the nation’s leading financial institutions.    

Prior to his work in philanthropy, Steve spent 20 years in public policy, the law, and long-range planning, working in the federal courts, private practice, as counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Committees on the Judiciary and Commerce, in government relations, and leading and advising justice reform commissions around the country. He has taught both undergraduate and law students and has written and spoken extensively on public policy and the future of the justice system and the legal profession. 

Steve is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law (JD, 1979) and the University of Pennsylvania (BA, magna cum laude, 1974).  He and his wife Paula – an expert on global philanthropy at Harvard – live in Lincoln, Massachusetts.