Vernon C. Grigg III appointed as next President and CEO of Up with People

Dear Friends of Up with People,

As our most valued constituents, I am extremely pleased to share this exciting news with you first!

I am honored to announce the appointment of Vernon C. Grigg III as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of Up with People effective January 6, 2020. We plan a separate external release across an array of media platforms in early December, but wanted you to know ahead of time.

The selection of Vernon culminates a comprehensive search that began last June when current CEO Dale Penny announced his planned retirement. The Board of Directors appointed a search committee led by outgoing Chairman Chuck Jarrett.  This committee narrowed a large initial pool of almost 200 well-qualified candidates to a smaller group who were interviewed. The finalists then met with the full Board of Directors, who were unanimous in their selection.

More than ever, Up with People is a relevant and needed force for positive change in our world. The Board is confident that Vernon’s vision and rich history of accomplishments have prepared him to lead the organization at this time.  The son of two public school educators in Tucson, Arizona, Vernon traveled as a cast member of UWP in 1981. After spending time in Ann Arbor, Michigan preparing for UWP’s Super Bowl XVI halftime show, Vernon enrolled at the University of Michigan where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics.  He then went on to earn his law degree from Yale Law School.

Following his graduation from Yale, Vernon served as a law clerk on three continents; first at the Supreme Court of Israel, second as the first black law clerk to the Supreme Court of South Africa during that country’s transition out of apartheid, and finally to the Chief Judge of the United States Federal Court in San Francisco.  Vernon received Up with People’s first J. Blanton Belk Award for his work in Israel and South Africa.

Vernon settled in San Francisco and began his career in law and public service. He served as one of the city’s top prosecutors and on several city and county commissions, addressing some of San Francisco’s most challenging problems, including homelessness and drug abuse.  These public service experiences ultimately led Vernon to pause his legal practice and focus his energy on nonprofit arts and educational organizations. Vernon’s first nonprofit leadership role was as the chairman and executive director of the San Francisco Bayview Opera House, where he launched the revival of the historic community theater. The Bayview Opera House provides cultural enrichment and arts education programs to disadvantaged youth.

In 2016, Vernon joined the Up with People Board of Directors, where he has served until his appointment as President and CEO.

Vernon’s wife Denise and his two teen daughters, Nina and Camille, are excited to support Vernon in this new role. He looks forward to sharing his passion for music, education and youth empowerment on a global scale.

As we now enter a new leadership era, I encourage all our alumni, partners, supporters and other constituents to engage with Vernon and the leadership team as we expand Up with People’s mission as a catalyst for global positive change.

As we plan for a global announcement in the coming weeks, we will be reaching out in hopes that you will engage and inform your own personal networks.  We will be announcing Vernon’s appointment via social media with visual, audio and written assets ready to be reposted, retweeted, reshared and repurposed to best get the word out.  This is an exciting and challenging time for Up with People, and we will be looking to your leadership and participation to let the world know that we enter 2020 with a new vision that builds on the tremendous work you have done.

Let’s continue to work together for a more inclusive, compassionate and peaceful world!


Robert Cygnaeus
Chairman, Board of Directors
Up with People

P.S. You may reach out to Vernon directly here.

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