Sterling Speirn

Sterling Speirn
Sterling Speirn

Sterling Speirn is president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) in Battle Creek, Mich., the fifth largest private foundation in the United States.

Since he assumed his role in 2006, Speirn has led the organization through a comprehensive review of its mission, vision and program priorities. The foundation’s strategic framework seeks to integrate three core program areas, Education & Learning; Food, Health & Well-Being; and Family Economic Security while emphasizing the promotion of Racial Equity and Civic & Community Engagement as core approaches to its mission to work with communities to create the conditions of success for vulnerable children.  As a result the foundation has placed a special emphasis on dual generation strategies that promote optimal family and optimal child development from birth to age eight.  It seeks to increase the number of children who are born healthy, who enter kindergarten ready to learn, who are successful and proficient by the end of third grade, and as a result are on their way to high school graduation and career and college access.  In addition, the foundation has identified priority places to concentrate an increasing portion of its annual grantmaking: Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans in the United States and in Mexico and Haiti for its international programming.

In 2010, under Speirn’s leadership, WKKF launched America Healing, a five-year, $75 million initiative to support programs that promote racial healing and address racial inequity, with the goal to support and empower communities in their efforts to dismantle the structures that limit opportunity – so that all children in America have an equitable and promising future. America Healing is focused on bringing healing to divided communities and addressing inequities in the areas of education, health, juvenile justice, economic success, media accountability and other areas. This work focuses on issues at the core of structural racism – the policies and practices that continue to create barriers for children of color – while at the same time is aligned with the foundation’s primary program areas.

Internally at the foundation, Speirn has been a strong supporter of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts to support and develop trustees and staff. The foundation offers and coordinates experiential training in these areas with a key partner called White Men as Full Diversity Partners. Additionally, four staff cohorts have participated in a Peer Action Learning Network led by the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) designed to strengthen the foundation’s ability to embrace diverse and inclusive management and grantmaking. As a result of that involvement, all foundation staff and trustees completed an Intercultural Development Inventory instrument to help each team member and the foundation as a whole measure intercultural competence. These experiences have been essential in helping the foundation move forward in its journey to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive.

Speirn has served on the CMF board of directors, and at CMF he also co-chairs the Transforming Michigan Philanthropy through Diversity and Inclusion project. He is an advisor to the national D5 coalition for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Philanthropy project and is a member of the Council on Foundations Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.  He serves as co-trustee and chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust and serves as a director on the Kellogg Company board.  He has also served on many other boards including, Northern California Grant Makers (chairman), Silicon Valley Community Ventures, and the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, Harvard Business School, University of Santa Clara, University of San Francisco, and Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and for two years taught a seminar on Philanthropy at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.  Mr. Speirn is the co-creator and served as a board member of the Raising A Reader take-home book bag program, which earned a Fast Company Social Entrepreneurship Award in 2006. He also served on the Advisory Council of the Global Philanthropy Forum.

Before joining the Kellogg Foundation, Speirn was president of the Peninsula Community Foundation (now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation), headquartered in Silicon Valley, where he led its asset growth from $60 million to $600 million.

Speirn began his career as a 7th and 8th grade English Teacher in Cleveland, Ohio.  He also has worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.; practiced law in North Carolina; managed a large community health center in Arcata, California, and managed the national computer grants program for nonprofit organizations at Apple Computer.

Sterling earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Stanford University and holds a law degree from the University of Michigan. He is married to Diana Aviv, president and CEO of the national nonprofit, Independent Sector, and has two sons.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit