Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Apr 12, 2017
Ralph Smith
Managing Director, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Senior Vice President and Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading at the Annie E. Casey Foundation since 2010, Mr. Smith calls himself a “recovering law professor,” acknowledging that work as a corporate and securities lawyer helps him appreciate the private sector’s role and the value of cross-sector collaboration. Convening “unusual allies” and “unlikely champions” is a hallmark of Mr. Smith’s work at the Foundation—from supporting fathers’ critical role in children’s lives to mobilizing communities as change agents in improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families. As the Foundation seeks a brighter future for children at risk of poor educational, economic, social and health outcomes, Mr. Smith has been forging consensus around ensuring that they reach the milestone of reading on grade level by the end of third grade. “Focusing on helping the youngest children succeed in school was the logical next step to advance the Foundation’s two-generation strategy for attacking intergenerational poverty,” he declares, referring to efforts to assist low-income parents to succeed economically while improving access to high-quality, early childhood learning opportunities. Mr. Smith made his early mark in academia by teaching corporations and securities regulation at the University of Pennsylvania, but his years as chief of staff and special counsel to the Philadelphia School District helped him grasp “the interplay between what was going on in schools and classrooms and what was going on in the lives of the children at home and in their communities,” he says. Working to “put families at the center of the Foundation’s efforts to improve outcomes for disadvantaged kids” numbers among his proudest accomplishments. He is “helping to build a culture where people are encouraged to take risks and to get personally involved with the work” As Mr. Smith remarks, “What crystallizes the moral imperative to act is the awareness and belief that acting can make a difference.”