CEO of local nonprofit Keystone Center tenders resignation |

CEO of local nonprofit Keystone Center tenders resignation

Jessica Smith
summit daily news
Special to the Daily

Gary Grappo, chief executive officer and president of The Keystone Center, has resigned.

His resignation became effective April 1. It is unclear when Grappo tendered his resignation to the board of trustees.

“It’s really a matter between the board and myself,” Grappo said of the timeline regarding his resignation.

The beginning of the year saw big changes in the organization as it formally separated from the Keystone Science School. The science school, which had been part of The Keystone Center since 1976, received approval from The Keystone Center Board of Trustees to separate from the organization to become an independent nonprofit. The school purchased its 23-acre campus and all school operations from The Keystone Center for $2.5 million in February.

Grappo cites personal and professional reasons for resigning from the position.

“On the professional side, the organization had undergone considerable change during my time there, change which I think is universally considered to be very positive for the organization, but ultimately led to an organization that was very different from the one that I joined back in January of 2012,” he said. “And so I felt that it was a right time for me to step aside, allow the board to evaluate the current state of the organization and the kind of leadership they want to have going forward.”

Board members were said to be unavailable for comment regarding the resignation. However, a news release appeared on the organization’s website Friday following an inquiry for information from the Summit Daily News. In the release, board co-chairwoman Dede Hapner stated, “On behalf of the entire board and staff of The Keystone Center, I and my co-chair Glenn Prickett thank Mr. Grappo for his valuable contributions to The Keystone Center. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”

Requests for information regarding Grappo’s salary while he held the position have not yet been answered.

Robert Craig, founder of The Keystone Center, had positive comments regarding Grappo’s time in the position.

“I admire Ambassador Grappo very much and I think he did a very good job for the center in the time he was there,” he said. “My understanding is he had decided that it was time for him to move on toward other things (and) I think he felt that he’d done some of the things that he had set out to do, such as the separation of the science school and the center, and of course he comes from a diplomatic background, and I don’t know what his future plans are. He has not indicated yet, but I hope to help in any way I can as he moves forward.”

Robyn Brewer, director of marketing communications at The Keystone Center, referenced Grappo’s involvement in the transition with the school and the organization’s strategic plan.

“He’s been with us a year, he brought a lot to our organization, he helped us through some really significant issues when he was here,” she said. “He obviously helped us navigate through the transition with the Keystone Science School to an independent entity. He also set us up with a thorough and robust strategic planning initiative, which really set us up for success today.”

Until a successor is chosen, Hapner will act as The Keystone Center’s interim president and CEO.

Grappo took the position in January 2012, replacing former CEO Peter Adler. Grappo’s background is in diplomatic leadership and foreign policy. His 26-year career with the U.S. State Department included service in Jerusalem as the head of mission under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Before that, he was the minister counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad from 2006-09 and U.S. Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman.

Grappo said that it was The Keystone Center’s policy work that drew him to apply for the position at the organization.

“(It’s a) great organization; they do wonderful work. They were involved in policy work, which is something I was drawn to,” Grappo said. “I had worked in policy previously to coming to Keystone and I wanted to continue in that vein. And it was in a spectacularly wonderful place in Colorado, so I was very attracted to it. I liked the organization quite a bit and it seemed like a very great fit, and it was.”

Soon after taking the position, Grappo became involved in preparing and implementing a comprehensive strategic plan for the organization, dealing with development and management of various aspects, including policy, financial management and staff development.

“We were able to prepare a very thorough strategic plan, which was ultimately presented and approved by the board, and there was a fair amount of board engagement in that effort as well,” Grappo said. “That would set us down on the path from both a policy perspective as well as some of the other areas that we wanted to address, whether it was the financial management of the organization, the development part of it, and certainly staffing development as well. It was a pretty comprehensive sort of plan that is fairly standard in any business or organization.”

The plan was a success, Grappo said, and became integral to guiding the organization’s next steps.

“It was, I think, a great start and I think it really galvanized the entire organization, including the board,” he said.

Grappo explained that the strategic plan was a chance for The Keystone Center to analyze its strengths and what it needed to do in order to ensure the focus on its mission and the health of the organization. Financial development was an aspect of the plan, seeking out other potential fundraising opportunities.

Separation from the science school wasn’t originally part of the strategic plan, Grappo said. “As we proceeded and began to look at the work of the policy folks as well as the science school, the question arose – can we, since we effectively have two missions here, is there a better way to achieve the missions of these organizations, other than keeping them a part of The Keystone Center? … Obviously it had to make financial sense and when we began taking a look at that, the answers were all very positive.”

Grappo said he plans to remain in Summit County for the summer. In the future, he may return to foreign policy work, though probably not through the government, he said.

“In the immediate term,” he said, “there are some personal matters that I need to take care of with my wife and family, and hopefully a great Colorado summer.”

Grappo also praised The Keystone Center for the work that it does and urges the community to learn more about it.

“It really is an extraordinary organization, and I think it’s an organization that the people here in the community and certainly the state of Colorado should be proud of in terms of the work that they do addressing really tough problems in our country today and the way that they do it,” he said. “It really is a noble mission. They have remarkable people that are carrying this out, very highly motivated to do the work that they do. They do it very well, (are) very committed, so I leave with nothing but high comments for the organization and the people in it and the work that they do.”

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