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Alberto Ibargüen is soon retiring as President & CEO of the Knight Foundation. Photo Courtesy of the Knight Foundation.
Alberto Ibargüen is soon retiring as President & CEO of the Knight Foundation. Photo Courtesy of the Knight Foundation.

Alberto Ibargüen prepares to step down as President & CEO of the Knight Foundation

The 79-year-old has led the philanthropic organization since 2005, building a legacy as among the biggest names in philanthropy of Hispanic descent.

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On Friday, March 24, Alberto Ibargüen announced his decision to step down as President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Ibargüen has been President & CEO of the Knight Foundation since 2005, joining the philanthropic organization during a critical time in the journalism profession.

When new social media platforms and emerging technologies were simultaneously altering the longtime news business model, the Knight Foundation had a key role to play.

For Ibargüen, the vision has always been constant.

According to the Knight Foundation, Ibargüen has often said, “The question in my mind is not how to save the traditional news industry, but how to meet the information needs of communities in a democracy so that the people might, as Jack Knight put it, ‘determine their own true interests.’”

Founded over 70 years ago, the Knight Foundation is among the nation’s leading nonprofits that provides grants for journalism, communities, and the arts with the goal of supporting a more effective democracy nationwide. 

Ibargüen and the Knight Foundation has made a mark in several US cities and institutions throughout his tenure at the helm.

Some of his highlights include establishing the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University to defend freedom of speech and the press in the digital age; orchestrating a $370 million foundation effort in Detroit to transform its finances, called The Grand Bargain; helping turn Miami into a cultural destination through a $210 million effort; increasing the nation’s diversity in asset management; and creating the Knight Research Network to address the impact of technology on media and democracy.

“He has been visionary,” said Francisco L. Borges, Knight Foundation board chair, in a statement. “Digital transformation has pushed us to find new ways to sustain our democracy and Alberto has provided us with the insights to do just that.”

Prior to joining the Knight Foundation, Ibargüen was the publisher of El Nuevo Herald and then publisher of The Miami Herald. During his 7-year tenure with the Miami Herald, the publication won three Pulitzer Prizes. 

Provided those roles — as well as other roles with Newsday and the Hartford Courant — Ibargüen is no stranger to the news media industry and its importance in building a societal democracy. 

Those learning lessons are what guided his leadership at the Knight Foundation. 

“My view from the beginning was that this was less a charity and more a social investment opportunity,” Ibargüen told the Miami Herald. “You look in the community, you see what the issues are. You decide which ones you can do something about, and which ones you might have some impact on — short or long-term. And then you focus on those.”

The Knight Foundation has been able to do just that in the areas of journalism and media, as well as arts and culture.  

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Southern New Jersey, helping others has always been a part of Ibargüen’s DNA. After graduating from Wesleyan University, he served in the Peace Corps in Venezuela and Colombia before entering the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Ibargüen began his career as a legal aid in Hartford, Connecticut, before earning into the news publishing industry.

Throughout his 18-year tenure with the Knight Foundation, Ibargüen has created a strong positive impact on himself and the philanthropic organization that will continue to be felt for years to come. 

The Knight Foundation’s board of trustees has already begun an immediate national search, and Ibargüen’s resignation will be effective upon the appointment of a successor. 

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