Gara LaMarche
Senior Fellow

Gara LaMarche is a Senior Fellow at New York University's Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service. From 2007 to 2011, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation that focuses on aging, children and youth, health, and human rights operating in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States, and Viet Nam. During his tenure at Atlantic, the foundation made the largest grant ever made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign - over $25 million - to press for comprehensive health care reform in the U.S., embraced a social justice framework for grantmaking, and worked closely with new governments in many of its geographies to take advantage of opportunities to achieve changes in HIV/AIDS and nursing policies in South Africa, civic engagement and democratic reform in Ireland, a more secure peace in Northern Ireland, and many other areas.

Before joining Atlantic in April 2007, Mr. LaMarche served as Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a foundation established by philanthropist George Soros. Mr. LaMarche joined OSI in 1996 to launch its U.S. Programs, which focus on challenges to social justice and democracy. During his tenure there, OSI (since renamed the Open Society Foundations) became the leading funder of criminal justice reform, launched and supported a number of fellowship programs in justice, law, medicine and community engagement, established an office critical in the revitalization of Baltimore, and helped create and foster a network of urban high school debate leagues.

Mr. LaMarche previously served as Associate Director of Human Rights Watch and Director of its Free Expression Project from 1990 to 1996. He helped build the organization's work in the United States and on lesbian and gay rights; conducted human rights investigations in Egypt, Cuba, Greece, and Hungary; and wrote reports on freedom of expression issues in the 1991 Gulf War, Miami's Cuban exile community, and the United Kingdom. He was Director of the Freedom-to-Write Program of the PEN American Center from 1988 to 1990, when PEN played a leading role in campaigns to lift Iran's fatwa against Salman Rushdie and challenged restrictions on arts funding in the United States.

He served in a variety of positions with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with which he first became associated with in 1972 at age 18 as a member of its national Academic Freedom Committee. Mr. LaMarche was the Associate Director of the ACLU's New York branch and the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. At the Texas ACLU, he led campaigns to provide adequate representation for death row inmates and oppose discriminatory treatment of persons with AIDS in the early days of the epidemic.

Mr. LaMarche is the author of numerous articles on human rights and social justice issues, which have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Nation, American Prospect, Huffington Post, Texas Observer, and Wharton Magazine, and many other publications, and is the editor of "Speech and Equality: Do We Really Have to Choose?" (New York University Press, 1996). He teaches a course on philanthropy and public policy at NYU's Wagner School and has been an adjunct professor at New School University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He also blogs at and many of his speeches and articles can be found there.

Mr. LaMarche has been recognized as a "Good Guy" by the Texas Women's Political Caucus and as a Voice for Justice by the Fifth Avenue Committee. He has received the John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service from Bard College, the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Progressive Leadership Award from USAction, the President's Award from the National Council of La Raza, the Champion Award from the Center for Community Change, and the Hope Award from Providence House. From 1988 to 1989, he was a Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York. He has also served as a judge for the Sundance Documentary Fund, the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award, the ACLU's Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty, the Roosevelt Institute's Four Freedoms Award, and the Lodestar Foundation's Collaboration Prize.

Mr. LaMarche serves on the boards of StoryCorps, ProPublica, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.

A Westerly, Rhode Island, native, Mr. LaMarche is a graduate of Columbia College at Columbia University in New York.


Semester Course
Spring 2014 PADM-GP.4413.001 Topics in Philanthropy

This course aims to introduce students to the critical role played by U.S. foundations on public policy issues and in American society generally.

The manner in which the U.S. tax laws encourage charitable giving has had a significant impact on civil society and social welfare. Philanthropy has not only been critical to the establishment of leading educational and cultural institutions and medical research and discovery, but also to numerous public policy advances such as public television, urban renewal, school vouchers and the modern human rights and women’s rights movements.

The course will touch on some of that history by way of a short introduction to institutionalized philanthropy, with particular emphasis on the foundations emerging in the first half of the 20th century from great American fortunes like Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Ford. But the principal focus will be the public policy activities of contemporary foundations.

Proceeding from the legal and historical environment, the second class will examine number of key public policy approaches and strategies, including research, organizing and communications. The third class will be devoted to a more intensive case study of a particular philanthropy-supported policy , and the final session will cover emerging and contested issues in policy-focused philanthropy.

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Fall 2012 PADM-GP.2126.001 Leading Values-Based Culture in Nonprofit Organizations

Successful leadership of not-for-profit organizations depends to a greater degree than is generally recognized on how closely institutional practice aligns with professed public values. Presuming a basic grounding in the structures and roles of the non-profit world, this course explores the values that lie behind them, drawing on the instructor’s 35 years of experience in managing global, national and state-based organizations with an emphasis on social justice and human rights groups as well as a series of case studies from other non-profits, positive and negative, and relevant literature.

Some classes, by prior arrangement, will take place onsite in certain of the non-profit organizations studied, with the participation of key leadership of those institutions. These may include Human Rights Watch, Make the Road New York, Demos, the Open Society Foundations, the Opportunity Agenda, New Visions for Public Schools, the Freedom to Marry Campaign, the Center for Community Change, the New York Public Library and the Surdna Foundation.

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Spring 2012 PADM-GP.2413.001 Philanthropy and Public Policy

This course aims to introduce students to the critical role played by U.S. foundations on public policy issues and in American society generally.

The manner in which the U.S. tax laws encourage charitable giving has had a significant impact on civil society and social welfare. A number of initiatives, including not only leading scholarly and medical advances but public television, rban renewal, school vouchers and the modern human rights and women’s rights movements, owe much to the support provided by foundations.

The course will review this history of charitable giving in the U.S., with particular emphasis on the foundations emerging in the first half of the 20th century from the great American fortunes (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford) and those coming to prominence around the turn of the last century (Gates, Soros). The role of conservative foundations in laying an intellectual and policy framework for the eagan and Bush presidencies and the Giuliani mayoralty in New York will also be examined.

Classes will be devoted to a number of key topics, including government regulation and media scrutiny of foundations, corporate philanthropy and family foundations, and criticism of philanthropic practice from the left and the right. Philanthropic practice in other democracies will also be examined, along with in‐depth looks at several foundations and philanthropic initiatives.

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In the Press

Is Philanthropy Bad for Democracy?
LaMarche: Do Philanthropy and Democracy Mix?
Nonprofit Quarterly
Where is the Movement for Child Care? [Commentary]
How Does Change Happen?
Experience the Future - Inaugural National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law
A 'Flip' Chat With Gara LaMarche [Video]