Board Member, Detroit RiverFront Conservancy
President and CEO
The Kresge Foundation
Rip Rapson is President and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a $3.1 billion national, private foundation based in metropolitan Detroit and founded by S.S. Kresge in 1924. He assumed leadership on July 1, 2006, and soon after began a multi-year transition to expand and recalibrate Kresge's grantmaking. Central to this expansion are nine values, which now serve as the centerpiece of the foundation's grantmaking criteria: advancing low-income opportunity, promoting community impact in ways most needed by residents, cultivating innovation and risk taking, supporting interdisciplinary solutions, fostering environmental sustainability, and encouraging diversity in board governance.
Kresge continues to award grants in the fields it has traditionally supported: health, the environment, arts and culture, education, human services and community development. Since Rapson's arrival, three new programs - the Health Program, the Environment Program and the Detroit Program - have been developed, representing a deepening of commitment for long-term impact in strategic areas. Rapson also has expanded Kresge's grantmaking methods from one based on exclusive use of its signature, facilities-capital challenge grant to a new approach that employs multiple tools based on the needs of the grantee organization, including operating support, program support, growth capital and program-related investments, as well as facilities capital. In 2008, the foundation awarded 342 grants, totaling $181 million.
Prior to joining Kresge, Rapson was president of the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation, the private, $2 billion foundation governed by the descendents of William McKnight, one of the founder's of 3M Corporation. Under his direction, the foundation was recognized as a national leader on a variety of public policy issues, including early childhood development, metropolitan growth, open space protection, and wind energy. Rapson launched the Itasca Project, a private-sector led effort to develop a new regional agenda for the Twin Cities, and he advanced McKnight's work supporting arts and cultural activities, enhancing water quality and public enjoyment of the Mississippi River, and fostering economic development in rural Minnesota.
Rapson served as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota before joining the McKnight Foundation. There he led a five-year, interdisciplinary project to help aging first-ring suburban communities address the challenges faced by declining tax revenues, changing economic and social demographics, and shifting political forces.
As the deputy mayor of Minneapolis under Mayor Don Fraser, Rapson served as primary architect of the pioneering Neighborhood Revitalization program, a twenty-year, $400 million effort to strengthen Minneapolis neighborhoods. He also directed a comprehensive redesign of the city's budgeting process and developed the mayor's initiatives to strengthen and support families and children.
Rapson came to the mayor's office from the Minneapolis law firm of Leonard, Street and Deinard, where he was a partner in the litigation division. He received his law degree from Columbia University.
Before entering law school, Rapson worked as a legislative assistant in then-Congressman Don Fraser's Washington, D.C. office and oversaw the development and passage of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1976, which brought full wilderness protection to the million-acre lake country of northern Minnesota.
Rapson is the author of two books: Troubled Waters, a chronicle of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act legislation, and Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design, a biography of his father, the renowned architect Ralph Rapson. He sits on the boards of the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of New York, Living Cities, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.
He and his wife Gail have an eleven-year-old daughter, Anna, and a fourteen-year-old son, Avery.