Donor Spotlight

Joan Palevsky’s Transformative Gift

“Are you sitting down?”

Those were the first words Joe Lumarda, CCF’s former executive vice president and chief operating officer, heard on Good Friday in April of 2006 when he got the call that philanthropist Joan Palevsky had left the foundation more than $200 million.

Minutes later he was calling the foundation President and CEO Antonia Hernández with the news of Palevsky’s transformational gift.

“I was at church in the parking lot when I got the call from Joe, I screamed when I heard the news,” said Hernández.

“People must have thought, this lady’s gone crazy.”

Palevsky’s unexpected gift was one of the largest ever made to a U.S. public charity. Her generosity enabled CCF to create The Palevsky Endowment for the Future of Los Angeles to support the causes that Palevsky championed throughout her lifetime including arts and culture, civic liberties and civic participation, education, and empowering the disadvantaged, such as the working poor, seniors and the homeless.

All the issues she cared deeply about fit so well with our future strategy. It was absolute synergy.

Antonia Hernández
President and Chief Executive Officer

“Her gift was a wonderful blessing…,” said Hernández at the time. “All the issues she cared deeply about fit so well with our future strategy. It was absolute synergy.”

She single-handedly transformed CCF and in turn increased its capacity to strengthen the non-profit community in Los Angeles County. Palevsky also created a wonderful model for philanthropists wishing to protect the underserved for generations to come.

Palevsky was described by the LA Times as a modest multimillionaire and academic, who was known for being intensely private, “She drove a modest car, often wore no jewelry and was not one to spend a great deal of time with her hair or nails.” During her lifetime she contributed to a long list of individuals and organizations in the city as well as to progressive woman candidates in the state and nation.  She quietly and consistently supported a broad spectrum of groups and institutions, from prestigious entities like UCLA and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to grassroots organizations like the Rape Foundation, TreePeople, and Amnesty International.

With Palevsky’s gift CCF’s assets grew to $1 billion. When Hernández took the helm as president and CEO of CCF in 2004 the foundation had $560 million in assets. By 2023 CCF’s assets would reach $2.3 billion with over 1,900 funds.

During Hernández’s two decades of leadership the foundation stewarded over $4.3 billion in contributions and oversaw the distribution of more than $3.9 billion in grants to nonprofit organizations in Los Angeles and beyond.

The endowment left by Palevsky not only served as a lasting tribute to her legacy and as a continuation of her life’s work, but enabled CCF to create lasting impact in Los Angeles County for generations to come.