President and CEO of the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation
You’ve been in Minnesota for almost two decades, but also lived in more than six different states. How does that affect your worldview?
It helps me understand the different sensibilities of our many communities, to have a sense of the values in an agricultural community, in a ranching community, in an urban setting, on different coasts, among people who value higher education and those who haven’t been exposed to it. It’s given me a better sense of the diversity of our nation, which is much more than just our racial and ethnic makeup.
How did you get connected to the Bush Foundation?
I joined the board in 2009, when I was president and CEO of the Science Museum of Minnesota. I knew the Bush Foundation wanted to advance their agenda in education and equity, and that was a space where I had particular expertise. I’ve been a part of education reform efforts for much of my career, and my focus has been around closing the achievement gap, whether it’s a gender gap, a racial gap or a gap due to poverty.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Six hours after 9/11, I was in a position to assemble an incredible group of talented people, and we wrote what became the most widely distributed classroom curriculum in the aftermath of 9/11 (“Beyond Blame: Reacting to the Terrorist Attacks”). It was designed to be taught anywhere from late elementary through high school, and over 500,000 classrooms across the United States adopted it within the first three months. It was about promoting civility and reducing violent reactions to what happened. It became a way to focus our dialogue on people.
"We wrote what became the most widely distributed classroom curriculum in the aftermath of 9/11."
Eric J. Jolly
What has made you so passionate about education?
I’m the first child in my family to have attended a high school. Although neither parent had much experience, they both held much value for education. Education has been a liberating force for me. It is something that once gained, it cannot be taken away. It is a source of power, of access and of opportunity. Education changed my life in its trajectory, and I so appreciate what I was able to gain through education. Being able to assure that all communities have access to this richness has been a passion and a value of my life.
What inspires you to keep going?
A deeply held desire to have made an impact on this world. That maybe something, or someone, is just a little better because I was here, because so many people made the world a lot better for me. It’s a desire to leave a footprint that benefits the community that’s treated me so well.