Knight Foundation Hires New Program Officers Based in Detroit, St. Paul

MIAMI – Two experienced nonprofit and foundation executives – David F. Smydra of Detroit, Mich., and Polly Talen of the Twin Cities – have joined a cadre of community liaison program officers at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The community liaisons are the primary grant-making officials living in Knight foundation’s 26 communities of interest. Smydra will serve as liaison in his home of Detroit and in Gary, Ind. Talen will serve as liaison in St. Paul and Duluth, Minn.; Grand Forks, N.D.; and Aberdeen, S.D. Knight foundation’s liaisons work with local community advisory committees, identifying specific funding priorities and developing tightly focused strategies with potential nonprofit partners to achieve long-term outcomes for community improvement.

David F. Smydra previously served as president for DFS Associates Inc., where he provided consulting assistance to government, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations. Prior to that he was a cabinet member and special adviser to the mayor of Detroit from 1994-2002, serving as a group executive and as primary contact between the mayor’s office and the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He was an executive vice president for New Detroit Inc., the nation’s first and largest urban coalition. He has also filled governmental and police executive roles in Detroit, Louisville, Ky., and Jackson, Mich. Smydra earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice/social science from Michigan State.

Most recently, Polly Talen was senior vice president in charge of nonprofit and foundation partnerships for DoTheGood Inc., where she served as principal in launching the e-philanthropy startup. Prior to that, she was the senior program officer for Dayton Hudson Corp., where she supervised the grants administrator and administrative staff. Talen has a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Wellesley College and a master of science degree in business from University of Wisconsin.

Smydra and Talen will report to Joe Ervin, director of the Knight Community Partners Program.

They are joined at Knight Foundation by several new colleagues.

Julie K. Kohler joins the foundation as a content program officer reporting to John Bare, director of program development and evaluation. Kohler previously worked for the Department of Family Studies at the University of Maryland, where she was a post-doctoral research associate and an adjunct instructor. While there, she worked on several evaluation research projects, assisting with grant writing, research design and instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis. Kohler has a bachelor of arts in psychology and a bachelor of science in human development/family studies from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and earned a master of arts and a Ph.D. in family social science from the University of Minnesota.

Katie Grossman joins the foundation as accounting assistant, reporting to Juan Martinez, controller. Grossman previously worked as the as accounts payable and marketing assistant for the Miami City Ballet. Prior to that, she held various part-time positions during her college career. She graduated with honors from the University of Miami with a bachelor of science degree in biology.

Ellen White joins Knight as program administration assistant. She previously served as Director of Corporate Account Management for TraveLeaders in Coral Gables, Florida. Assisted Knight Foundation as an independent contractor coordinating the Magic of Music symphony retreat earlier this year. White holds a Bachelors Degree in Asian Studies from Florida State University.

Susan Perry-Smith joined the foundation as communications assistant reporting to Larry Meyer, vice president of communications. Prior to joining Knight, Perry-Smith was director of membership and communications for The International Affiliation of Independent Accounting Firms, where she managed membership recruitment, edited a monthly newsletter and created comprehensive information guides. She received a bachelor of fine arts degree from Ohio University.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.