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Helene Gayle and Ashish Dhawan will join the foundation’s governance body, helping to strengthen its mission to fight poverty, disease, and inequity globally
SEATTLE (August 18, 2022) — Today, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the appointment of Dr. Helene D. Gayle, president of Spelman College, and Ashish Dhawan, founder and CEO of the Convergence Foundation, to its board of trustees. The new board members will serve alongside Strive Masiyiwa, Baroness Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, Thomas J. Tierney, Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman, and Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.
Gayle is a Gates Foundation alumna, and both new board members have worked with foundation grantees focused on saving lives and creating opportunities across health, education, and economic prosperity.
“Over two decades as a foundation, we’ve learned that the best ideas emerge when we invite people with diverse perspectives to the table,” said Melinda French Gates. “Today’s announcement is another important step in strengthening the foundation's governance and deepening our commitment to the work. We’ve learned so much from Helene and Ashish through our work together over the years, and we’re lucky they have agreed to join us as colleagues on the board.”
The new board members’ experiences and backgrounds expand the technical, geographic, and gender diversity on the board, and will help the foundation deepen engagement with partners and communities where the foundation’s work is focused.
“At a moment of great need and opportunity across global health and development, Helene and Ashish bring unique ways of thinking that will help us see things we don’t,” said Bill Gates. “They have been great partners to the foundation in our pursuit of a world where everyone can live a healthy, productive life. As we step up our spending and commit to do even more to confront the challenges ahead, we can draw from the board’s expertise to make an even bigger, more equitable impact.”
In response to overlapping crises that threaten two decades of progress on health, development, and economic opportunity, the foundation recently announced that it will increase its payout by 50% over pre-pandemic levels to $9 billion annually by 2026. The board will play a critical role in shaping the foundation’s future direction and advising the evolution of its transformational strategies, programs, and partnerships to meet the increased payout and sustain long-term impact.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Helene and Ashish to the board and look forward to working together in this new capacity,” said Mark Suzman. “I’m excited to learn from their broad experiences and am eager to draw from their insights as we aim to strengthen and diversify our work and partnerships in service of a better, fairer world for all.”
Prior to becoming president of Spelman College, Gayle was president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the United States’ oldest and largest community foundations. She also spent nearly a decade as president and CEO of the international humanitarian organization CARE. She served as the director of the HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2001 to 2006 and began her career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she spent 20 years focusing primarily on HIV/AIDS prevention and global health.
“As an alum of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, I am honored and excited to be joining its board,” said Gayle. “Working at the foundation provided an important and pivotal career opportunity for me, and I am pleased to be able to give back and contribute in this way. The lifechanging work of the foundation is a constant inspiration for me and my colleagues doing work in the social impact arena.”
In addition to being founder and CEO of the Convergence Foundation, which is focused on accelerating India’s economic growth and development, Dhawan is the chairperson of Ashoka University, a leading liberal arts university in India, and Central Square Foundation, a nonprofit foundation working to improve the quality of education for all children in India. He is based in New Delhi, India, where the Gates Foundation has been working in collaboration with the Indian government and other partners since 2003 on various issues, including health care, sanitation, gender equality, agricultural development, and financial empowerment.
"The foundation has made exemplary contributions to India’s development over the last 15 years, and I am pleased to join the board,” said Dhawan. “I hope to contribute to its strategy on economic growth, equality of opportunity, and sustainability, and look forward to learning from and contributing to its education efforts across the world, particularly in Africa."
The board was formed earlier this year and announced by CEO Mark Suzman in the foundation’s inaugural annual letter. Suzman and Connie Collingsworth, the foundation’s chief operating officer and chief legal officer, led the work to strengthen the foundation’s governance at the request of Gates and French Gates, conducting a strategic review in consultation with external experts on best governance practices.
The board members advise the co-chairs and the foundation’s leadership team on budget and strategy. The board meets three times a year to guide the work of the foundation and approve the annual budget and four-year plan. Board members also have the responsibility to review the CEO’s performance and approve the CEO’s compensation. They serve three-year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.