As Ford Foundation president from 1996 to 2007, she directed billions of grant dollars worldwide to strengthen democracy, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation and advance human achievement. The common imperative was to serve human potential.
As Ford president, Berresford streamlined the bureaucracy to make the foundation more responsive. “She wove together the idea of a domestic and international foundation and created a truly global program,” said Lorie Slutsky, president of The New York Community Trust, in 2007.
In 2000, the foundation made a landmark $280 million grant, its largest ever, to establish the Ford Foundation International Fellows program, providing graduate scholarships for students from the world’s poorest communities. The foundation, whose $12 billion in assets supports annual grants exceeding $500 million, also expanded its work on HIV/AIDS, invested in higher education in Africa, created major arts programs and facilitated affordable mortgages for low-income families.
Berresford, who graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College, chairs the grant-making organization United States Artists and is a member of the European Foundation Centre’s Governing Council. Currently she consults on philanthropy for The New York Community Trust and leads projects for the Ford Foundation, including the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin.
Accepting the 2007 John W. Gardner Leadership Award from the Independent Sector, a professional association for grant-making organizations, Berresford urged philanthropic leaders to “aim high. Let us not leave people behind.”