Diane Kaplan welcomes philanthropy leaders to Alaska for the 15th Annual Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers. Find out who is on the tour this year in this week's post.

Today we are thrilled that leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent philanthropies are arriving in Alaska for the annual, week-long Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers.

We initiated the tour in 1997 to introduce Outside funders to the unique challenges and pioneering solutions found in Alaska. Today the Tour is regarded as a national model for raising awareness within the philanthropic community about issues facing rural America.

While technology may make the planet seem smaller, Alaska is, in reality, still very far away. Without seeing Alaska firsthand, it’s hard to understand just the size and scale of our state, not to mention its issues and opportunities. Bringing these funders to Alaska gives our nonprofits a chance to show off the innovative programs they are deploying to improve life here in our state.

And the Tour provides our nonprofit organizations an opportunity to establish partnerships and build lasting relationships. Such partnerships are a key component for the success of Alaska’s nonprofit community.

As we work our way through the state, please follow our progress on Twitter (#AKTour11). We welcome you to add to the stream, snap photos, share stories about the nonprofits and communities we will be visiting.

This year’s participants are:

1. Larry Harlan is ExxonMobil’s manager of corporate citizenship & community investments, with responsibility for overseeing the company’s global social responsibility programs including managing corporate contributions. Among the initiatives managed by the group are the company’s three major signature programs in the areas of math and science education, malaria eradication and the furthering of opportunities for women as catalysts for economic development.

2. Alberto Ibargüen was named president and CEO of John S. and James S. Knight Foundation in January 2005. He is the former publisher of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. During his tenure, The Miami Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes and El Nuevo Herald won Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for excellence in journalism. The Knight Foundation is dedicated to promoting journalism and supporting the vitality of 26 communities where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers.

3. Christine M. Morse has lead the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation since its creation upon the death of Ms. Cargill in 2006. The Foundation is one of three grantmaking organizations formed by Ms. Cargill; the others are Anne Ray Charitable Trust, and Akaloa Resource Foundation. Morse leads all three organizations (collectively the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies). The Margaret A. Cargill Foundation’s mission is to support activities for which Ms. Cargill cared passionately including the environment, eldercare, disaster relief and international relief of suffering, teacher education, planned health, promoting appreciation of the arts (particularly Native American art and folk art), wellbeing of children and families, education, and caring for animals.

4. Terry Meersman joined the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation as vice president of programs in December 2010. Prior to joining the Foundation, Meersman served as vice chair of Seattle-based Talaris Research Institute, and helped establish the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as its first director of finance and administration and then senior program officer.

5. Rocco Landesman was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 7, 2009 as the tenth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an independent federal agency that offers support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence. Prior to joining the NEA, he was a Broadway theater producer of shows such as Big River (1985 Tony, Best Musical), Angels in America, a play in two parts which received the Tony for Best Play in 1993 and in 1994, and The Producers (2001 Tony, Best Musical).

6. Debby Landesman has over 25 years of leadership experience in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. She is an independent consultant who works as a philanthropic advisor to private, corporate, and family foundations. Prior to beginning her consulting business in 1996, Landesman was the executive director of the Levi Strauss Foundation and a senior program officer at the Kresge Foundation.

7. Katherine Hatton, J.D., is vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,, the largest U.S. philanthropy dedicated exclusively to healthcare. Formerly the general counsel for the publisher of Philadelphia’s largest newspapers, she came to the Foundation in 2004, drawn by what she describes as its “mission-driven approach to social change and its focus on improving health and health care for all Americans.” From 1992 until 2004, Hatton was vice president and general counsel of Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. (PNI) with responsibility for overseeing the legal affairs of the company including its First Amendment matters. Hatton is the former chair of the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

8. Paul “Dino” Dinovitz assumed his position of vice president and western director with the William Randolph Hearst Foundations in 2005. The Hearst Foundations are national philanthropic resources for organizations and institutions working in the fields of education, health, culture and social service. Prior to joining the Foundations, Dinovitz served as general manager at stations in major markets throughout the United States including KRON-TV in San Francisco. A Kansas City native, Dinovitz graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. He is married to Cathy Dinovitz who will accompany him on the tour.

I need to mention that we don’t do this alone. In addition to hundreds of participants across the state, the 2011 Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers is co-sponsored by Alaska Community Foundation, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, Alaska Railroad Corporation, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, BP, ConocoPhillips, Denali Commission, ExxonMobil, First Alaskans Institute, The Foraker Group, Hotel Captain Cook, Southcentral Foundation, CIRI, The CIRI Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank Alaska, United Way of Anchorage, and Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

…and off we go on for the 15th Annual Educational Tour of Alaska for Grantmakers.