Rip Rapson is president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation, a $3 billion private foundation based in metropolitan Detroit and founded by S.S. Kresge in 1924. An attorney and expert in urban policy, Rapson assumed leadership on July 1, 2006, and quickly initiated a multi-year transition to expand and recalibrate Kresge’s grantmaking.
Seven strategically focused programs – in arts and culture, community development, education, environment, health, and human services – seek to influence the quality of life for future generations by creating access and opportunity in underserved communities; improving the health of low-income people; supporting artist expression; increasing college achievement; assisting in the revitalization of Detroit; and advancing methods for dealing with climate change.
To facilitate this work, Rapson has put into practice the use of multiple, flexible funding methods, including operating support, project support, and program-related investments. These new tools complement Kresge’s historic, and formerly exclusive, use of the facilities-capital challenge grant.
Prior to joining Kresge, Rapson was president of the Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation, the private, $2 billion foundation governed by the descendents of William McKnight, one of the founders of 3M Corporation. Under his direction, the foundation was recognized as a national leader on a variety of public policy 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 Foundation. 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 the deputy mayor of Minneapolis under Mayor Don Fraser, Rapson served as primary architect of the pioneering Neighborhood Revitalization program, a twenty-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 received his law degree from Columbia University.
Before entering law school, Rapson worked as a legislative assistant in then-Congressman Don Fraser’s Washington, D.C. 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 renowned architect Ralph Rapson. He sits on the boards of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, M1 Rail, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation of New York, and Living Cities.