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Longtime Nonprofit Executive Caryl M. Stern to Lead Walton Family Foundation

September 16, 2019
New leader brings three decades working with government, business and philanthropy

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Sept. 16, 2019 – Today, Walton Family Foundation Board Chair Carrie Walton Penner announced the selection of Caryl M. Stern as the foundation’s new executive director. Stern is a dynamic change-maker with deep experience in serving others. Recognized as one of the most respected nonprofit leaders in the country, Stern will lead the foundation known for creating access to opportunity for people and communities.

“Caryl’s incredible record of leadership and service makes her the perfect choice for the Walton Family Foundation,” said Penner. “We are excited to have her join us in making a difference for those we serve.”

Stern’s selection follows an extensive nationwide search by the foundation’s Board, comprised of members of the Walton family. The search focused on finding a leader with a passion for improving individual lives today and a commitment to creating lasting change for the future.

“It is an honor to become a part of the critical work of the Walton Family Foundation,” Stern said. “For decades, the foundation has focused on addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time. Guided by family leadership combined with staff expertise and a committed grantee network, the Walton Family Foundation is creating meaningful change in individual lives and in communities.”

Stern comes to the foundation with more than 30 years in the nonprofit sector as a child advocate and civil rights activist most recently serving for 12 years as president and CEO of UNICEF USA. In that role, she leads the day-to-day work of the organization’s national office and 10 regional offices. In addition to other roles at UNICEF USA, Stern served as chief operating officer and senior associate national director for the Anti-Defamation League. She is the author of I Believe in Zero, a book of stories from her travels that lead to powerful and sometimes counter-intuitive lessons about life.

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“Caryl’s experience in education, the impacts of environmental issues, and economic development gives her keen insight into the Walton Family Foundation’s strategic programs and vision,” said Penner. “With a track record of working across sectors, including government, business and philanthropy, as well as leading complex organizations dealing with complicated issues, she is an ideal choice as the foundation looks to solutions from all over to address some of society’s most daunting challenges.”

Stern will begin her role with the foundation in January 2020 and will be based in the foundation’s Bentonville, Arkansas office. In her role as executive director, she will head one of the nation’s leading private foundations with grants totaling more than $595 million in 2018 and will oversee efforts to improve K-12 education for all students, protect oceans and rivers, and improve quality of life in the foundation’s home region. She will lead a 100-person staff with offices in Bentonville, Denver, Jersey City, N.J. and Washington, D.C.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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