June 10, 2023 Celebration of Life
Remarks as prepared: Pedro A. Ramos, President and CEO; Philadelphia Foundation
We are here to celebrate the life and legacy of Carrolle Perry Devonish, a remarkable woman who touched so many lives with her generosity, wisdom, and leadership. I am honored to have been invited by the family to share over the next few minutes Carrolle’s history and impact during her time at The Philadelphia Foundation.
Carrolle was a pioneer in the field of community philanthropy, dedicating her career to connecting donors with causes that mattered to them and to the people of Philadelphia. The fourth executive director in our history, Carrolle was also the first woman and first Black executive director of the Philadelphia Foundation, where she served from 1991 to 1999.
Under her leadership, the community foundation achieved remarkable growth and transformation, becoming one of the most progressive and responsive community grantmakers in the country. Assets grew over 130% during her tenure, increasing the foundation’s capacity to support more causes and communities.
Carrolle had a vision of philanthropy that was inclusive, collaborative, and empowering. She believed that everyone had something to give and something to gain from giving. She focused on issues at the neighborhood level, supporting grassroots leaders and organizations that addressed inequities and injustices in various sectors.
Carrolle was especially passionate about uplifting communities and givers in diverse and marginalized communities. She challenged the myth that we were only recipients and not givers. She commissioned and issued a report on the changing ethnic and racial demographics of Southeastern Pennsylvania counties, which led to a major grant from The Ford Foundation to help launch the “Changing Communities, Diverse Needs” initiative.
Carrolle also helped launch several other initiatives that made a lasting difference in Philadelphia, such as the “Philadelphia Neighborhood Development Collaborative,” which strengthened housing production and neighborhood revitalization by building management skills in local community development corporations; the “Summer Career Exploration Program,” which connected 1,800 high school students with more than 1,000 private sector employers, 23 community agencies, and hundreds of college student volunteers; and the “Children Achieving” school reform agenda, which received the largest grant ever made by the foundation at the time.
Under Carrolle, the Philadelphia Foundation also took over stewardship of a 200-year-old bequest from Benjamin Franklin, which continues to provide financial aid for students in the trades, crafts, and applied sciences.
Carrolle was not only a leader, but also a mentor and a friend to many in Philadelphia, nationally and internationally. She was generous with her time, knowledge, and resources, always willing to share her insights and advice.
Carrolle’s legacy lives on in the many lives she touched and the many causes she supported. She left an indelible mark on Philadelphia and on the world of philanthropy. She inspired us to be more generous, more compassionate, and more courageous in our giving. She taught us that philanthropy is not just about money, but about values, relationships, and impact.
Carrolle will always be remembered fondly and respectfully. We will honor her memory by continuing her work and following her example. We will keep her spirit in our hearts and in our prayers.
May she rest in peace.