Rip Rapson, attorney and expert in urban policy, is president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a $3 billion national, private foundation based in metropolitan Detroit.
Rapson came to Kresge in 2006 and led the philanthropy in a multiyear transition to expand and recalibrate its grantmaking. Strategically focused programs emerged: arts and culture, education, environment, health, human services and community development in Detroit, Kresge’s hometown. Each seeks to expand opportunities in America’s cities so that vulnerable people can lead self-determined lives and join the economic mainstream.
Rapson put into practice the use of multiple funding methods, including operating support, project support and program-related investments. Program-related investments, such as loans and loan guarantees, allow Kresge to use its capital in ways that extend beyond traditional grantmaking. In 2013, the foundation awarded 316 grants totaling $122 million and its Social Investment Practice managed active commitments representing $57.4 million in program-related investments
Rapson has helped lead a partnership of private, public and philanthropic funders to revitalize the city of Detroit, including the construction of the first leg of a light rail line, M-1 Rail. He worked with other philanthropic leaders to create a $366 million fund – Foundation for Detroit’s Future – to blunt the impact of municipal bankruptcy on city of Detroit pensioners and safeguard city-owned holdings at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Prior to joining Kresge, Rapson was president of the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation, a private, $2 billion foundation. Under his direction, the foundation was recognized as a national leader on issues including early childhood development, metropolitan growth, open space protection and wind energy. Rapson launched the Itasca Project, a private-sector led effort to develop a new regional agenda for the Twin Cities, and he advanced McKnight’s work to support arts and cultural activities, enhance water quality and public enjoyment of the Mississippi River, and foster economic development in rural Minnesota.
Rapson served as a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota before joining the McKnight. There, he led a five-year, interdisciplinary project to help aging first-ring suburban communities address the challenges posed by declining tax revenues, changing economic and social demographics and shifting political forces.
As deputy mayor of Minneapolis under Mayor Don Fraser, Rapson served as primary architect of the pioneering Neighborhood Revitalization program, 20-year, $400 million effort to strengthen Minneapolis neighborhoods. He also directed a comprehensive redesign of the city’s budgeting process and developed the mayor’s initiatives to strengthen and support families and children.
Rapson came to the mayor’s office from the Minneapolis law firm of Leonard, Street and Deinard, where he was a partner in the litigation division. He earned his law degree from Columbia University.
Before entering law school, Rapson worked as a legislative assistant in then-Congressman Don Fraser’s Washington office and oversaw the development and passage of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1976, which brought full wilderness protection to the million-acre lake country of northern Minnesota.
Rapson is the author of two books: “Troubled Waters,” a chronicle of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act legislation, and “Ralph Rapson: Sixty Years of Modern Design,” a biography of his father, the architect Ralph Rapson. He serves as chairman of the ArtPlace Presidents Council and sits on the boards of Living Cities, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, M-1 Rail, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of New York.