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McKnight names Mark Muller director of Mississippi River program

December 18, 2014

Following a national search, The McKnight Foundation has named Mark Muller as director of its Mississippi River program. He will take on the new role on January 5, 2015.

In 2013, Muller was hired by McKnight as Mississippi River program officer. Prior to McKnight, he worked for 14 years at the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), an organization that promotes resilient food systems, communities, and ecosystems. Among other leadership roles, he served as IATP’s director of the Environment and Agriculture, Food Justice, and Food and Community Fellows programs. Muller has also taught high school science in New York City; volunteered extensively in Central America; and served on the board of directors for the Wedge Natural Foods Co-op. He has a B.A. in Physics from State University of New York at Geneseo, and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College, New York.

McKnight’s Mississippi River program works through grants, collaborations, and advocacy to restore the river’s water quality and resilience. Last year, about 10% (or $8.5 million) of McKnight’s total grant payout went to support this goal.

Given the program’s 20-year history, McKnight will next conduct a review of program priorities and activities, with an eye toward a refreshed river strategy in later 2015. Because of this, the foundation will hold off hiring a program officer to work with Muller until the review has clarified parameters for the program’s next phase. In the interim, Muller will partner closely with trusted program consultants to ensure grantmaking continues uninterrupted.

Both the hiring and the upcoming program review reflect McKnight’s board of directors’ deep commitment to strengthening the river’s water quality and resilience. Aiming for program improvements to maximize impact, the foundation is committed to informing and engaging grantees and program partners as appropriate throughout the review. Current grantees should keep an eye on McKnight’s website, and expect to hear more about the review process from Muller in the first half of 2015.

The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Minnesota-based family foundation had assets of approximately $2 billion and granted about $86 million in 2013. Learn more at, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tim Hanrahan, McKnight Communications Director, 612-333-4220