Sam Gill named Chief Program Officer at Knight Foundation

Contact: Kenny Ma, Communications Director, Knight Foundation, 305.908.2646, [email protected] 

MIAMI — Dec. 10, 2019 — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has promoted Sam Gill today to the newly created position of senior vice president and chief program officer.

Sam Gill

Gill has played a central role in aligning Knight’s research and grantmaking strategy since joining the foundation in 2015 as vice president for Learning and Impact. He later came to oversee the Community and National Initiatives portfolio, which accounts for half of the foundation’s grantmaking. As chief program officer, he will oversee Knight’s entire grantmaking program, including Journalism and the Arts.

“Sam has been an invaluable partner in the development of strategy designed to increase the impact of Knight Foundation programs to create more informed and engaged communities toward a more effective democracy,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president. “He has the vision, courage and tenacity that is required to lead in today’s philanthropy.” 

Gill has notably led the evolution of Knight’s Communities and National Initiatives program toward a greater focus on impact, promoting community engagement through projects ranging from reimagining public spaces, to efforts to revitalize downtowns, to experiments in the use of digital technology.  Simultaneously, he led the expansion of the foundation’s Learning and Impact program from grants evaluation to field-leading research, including: an ongoing series of surveys with Gallup on American views toward media (most recently, “Putting a Price Tag on Local News” and the “State of Public Trust in Local News”); “High School Student Views of the First Amendment: Trends in the 21st Century,” which analyzes over a decade of Knight surveys of high schoolers; a landmark post-secondary study on free speech attitudes, “Free Expression on Campus: What College Students Think about the First Amendment”; and research on how arts and culture build of a sense of community, including “Evolving Arts Ecosystems: A Study of Miami.” 

In the past year, Gill spearheaded a $50 million investment by Knight to help develop a new field of research into technology’s impact on democracy by supporting cross-disciplinary centers of study at universities, as well as a range of other research approaching the issues from different ideological perspectives. This initiative is a key part of the foundation’s $300 million investment in building a sustainable future for local news.

“Supporting democracy through more informed and engaged communities has never been more urgent. I look forward to working even more closely with our talented colleagues across Knight’s programs in journalism, the arts and community to continue to extend our impact,” said Gill.

Knight Foundation also announced that it will begin an immediate, national search to fill the position of VP/Community and National Initiatives, led by the firm Phillips Oppenheim. Interested candidates should email Phillips Oppenheim directly.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

Additional Gill photo (preview) by Olivia Hagan, University of Washington Photography.