Tillisch will be the new president of UPAF

The United Performing Arts Fund has announced that Deanna Tillisch, current vice president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and director of corporate affairs, has been named president of UPAF, effective Nov. 14.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to lead this organization. I’ve been pretty involved with UPAF through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation for a number of different years,” Tillisch said. “I’ve been able to have an inside perspective, albeit a sideline one, about what this organization deos for the community. In terms of economic development and impact, the UPAF organization adds tremendous value to Milwaukee and to the region.”
Tillisch plans to bring a fresh business perspective to the organization and hopes to be able to help move the organization to the next level, she said.
“My predecessors have built a great organization for me to step into,” she said. “I’m the beneficiary of all their hard work.”
According to Tillisch, being vice president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation has given her insight into what makes a ‘best-in-class’ organization. She plans to bring some of the strategies of evaluating that strength to UPAF.
Tillisch will replace Cristy Garcia-Thomas, who in July was named the president of the Aurora Health Care Foundation.
The announcement comes after an extensive four-month search headed by Susan Fronk, UPAF search committee chair and president and chief executive officer of MRA-The Management Association.
UPAF is a nonprofit, umbrella organization that supports 34 performing arts groups in southeastern Wisconsin through its annual fundraising campaign. UPAF is the largest united arts fund in the country for the performing arts and has provided more than $224 million in operating support to the performing arts since its inception in 1967.
"Our search for a new leader for UPAF has been thorough," said Fronk. "Our search committee interviewed a large group of very talented individuals. Deanna was the best candidate for UPAF leadership to emerge from an extremely strong field of candidates.”
Tillisch has more than 25 years of experience and a proven track record of overseeing the largest corporate giver in the state, Fronk said. In her current role at the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, she has been successful in directing the foundation’s activities to effectively distribute more than $15 million each year while increasing the depth of the impact of these funds and driving sustainable change.
Tillisch also developed policies and practices that increased nonprofit accountability and benchmarked and measured outcomes.
“Deanna’s highly collaborative leadership style, deep knowledge of philanthropy and her past administration of the state’s largest corporate charity make her the right choice to lead UPAF," said Rich Meeusen, board chairman of the United Performing Arts Fund and chief executive officer of Badger Meter Inc. "I am looking forward to working with Deanna in her new role, and taking UPAF to new levels of success."
Tillisch plans to do a lot of listening and meeting with team and board members when she officially starts in November, she said. “I want to immerse myself fully in the organization,” Tillisch said.
John Kordsmeier, vice president of Northwestern Mutual will be named president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation in the coming weeks, Tillisch said.
“He knows the company very very well and is the perfect fit to run the Foundation,” she said.
Kordsmeier has been very involved with the board of directors of the REP Theater, ultimately he will decide on the individual that replaces Tillisch, she said.

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