Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education
Getting to Know Jamie Merisotis
Among the nation's most influential foundations, the Indianapolis-based Lumina Foundation for Education has established itself as a leading supporter of higher education access programs and research. Seeking to make the foundation more active in shaping public policy, Lumina officials last year turned to Jamie Merisotis, a veteran policy and research organization leader, to lead the foundation as its newest president.
Known in higher education circles for his role as the former president and founder of the Washington-based Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), Merisotis became Lumina's president this past January. His wife, Colleen O'Brien, the director of the Washington-based Pell Institute at the Council for Opportunity in Education, will soon join him in Indianapolis with their two young children. Although Merisotis, 44, did not seek the job, he's pleased that he came under consideration for it and sees his appointment as a chance to build upon IHEP's accomplishments and other higher education work he's done.
"I think the great opportunity I have here is that my life's work has been about the mission of the Lumina Foundation, which is increasing access and success beyond high school," Merisotis says.
With assets valued at roughly $1.4 billion, Lumina is among the 50 largest private foundations in the United States. Its payout to grantees is $50 million annually. The foundation, initially called the USA Group Foundation based on its affiliation with the USA Group loan servicing company, became a major foundation in 2000, according to foundation officials.
Says John Mutz, the Lumina Foundation chair and a former lieutenant governor of Indiana, "We're now moving to the phase in our work in which we want to be deeply involved in public policy. …