Arnold Randall Named Next Executive Director

The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation announces the appointment of Arnold L. Randall as its next Executive Director.

Randall currently serves as the General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, the nation’s oldest and largest forest preserve system. He is a thoughtful and engaged leader with a long history of effective public service and is joining the Foundation at an exciting time in its 70-year history. The Foundation is continuing to grow its leading-edge approach to philanthropy and deepen the mission-focused work in its program areas: artistic vitality, land conservation, and collections. The Foundation’s success is built on its strong commitment to innovation in its practices and fostering lasting partnerships with the nonprofit organizations making vital impacts in Chicago and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Headshot of Arnold Randall. He is wearing a tan suit and smiling.Across Randall’s thirteen-year tenure, the Forest Preserves has made notable strides in becoming a more transparent, accountable, and strategic government agency. The Preserves increased tenfold the amount of land under active restoration to return it to high quality ecosystems that benefit nature and people alike. At the same time, visitors to the Preserves have increased significantly with a real focus on inviting a more diverse audience.

Laura Donnelley, Chair of the Foundation Board said, “We are thrilled that Arnold will serve as our next Executive Director. He has the vision and experience to guide the Foundation to even greater heights of innovation and impact. His demonstrated organizational leadership, impressive track record in the public sector, and deep commitment to serving diverse communities equip him well to build on the Foundation’s 70-year history across all our mission areas.”

“The Foundation’s long and successful history of nurturing and supporting efforts to protect and restore fragile natural areas, helping to build vibrant communities through local arts organizations, and telling the stories of the many diverse communities is rooted in a mission that is both inspirational and as important today as it was when the work began. The Foundation’s commitment to the Chicago region and the Lowcountry of South Carolina is something that I am excited to be part of moving forward,” said Randall.

Among the highlights of his tenure, the Forest Preserves successfully pursued a tax-levy referendum in 2022 that passed overwhelmingly and provided more resources for the agency’s mission. He also introduced the Next Century Conservation Plan, positioning the agency as a national conservation leader.

Before his tenure at the Forest Preserves, Randall served as Director of the Office of Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago and Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development. He also served in a number of leadership roles with the Chicago Park District.

Randall serves on the Board of Directors of the National Recreation and Park Association and has served as Chair of the Chicago Community Development Commission and Chicago Wilderness. In addition, he has been active in numerous civic and professional organizations, including the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, American Planning Association and the Illinois Park and Recreation Association.

Randall holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and attended the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

A Search Committee appointed by the Foundation Board led a rigorous, national search in partnership with Russell Reynolds Associates, the global executive search and leadership consulting firm.

Randall will succeed retiring current Executive Director David Farren, who has served in the role for a successful 11-year tenure, in January 2024.

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