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December 21, 2021

Longtime leader of John T. Gorman Foundation will step down

The John T. Gorman Foundation, Maine's third-largest charitable organization, on Monday announced that its first and only president and CEO, Tony Cipollone, will retire Feb. 1.

The foundation's chief program officer, Nicole Witherbee, will succeed Cipollone, according to a news release.

Courtesy / The John T. Gorman Foundation
Nicole Witherbee will replace Tony Cipollone as president and CEO of the John T. Gorman Foundation.

The Portland-based nonprofit works to improve the lives of disadvantaged Maine people, and in 2019 reported assets of $200 million. That total puts it behind only the Harold Alfond Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation, according to the Mainebiz Book of Lists.

The Gorman Foundation was founded in 1995 by John Thomas (Tom) Gorman, a grandson of L.L. Bean Inc. founder Leon Leonwood Bean. Gorman passed away in 2010. Shortly thereafter, the Gorman Foundation hired Cipollone as its first president and CEO. Cipollone had previously held senior leadership positions for over 20 years at the national Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“We saw in Tony an experienced leader capable of building an organization that would not only carry on my uncle’s legacy of generosity, but advance ideas and strategies designed to make the greatest possible difference in the lives of Maine people,” said board chair Shawn Gorman.

Courtesy photo
Tony Cipollone

The foundation devotes some portion of its annual grant making to addressing immediate needs, the bulk of our annual resources are devoted to ideas and strategies that address “root causes” of problems facing disadvantaged people in Maine.

The foundation recently gave $1 million towards the creation of the Preble Street food security hub.

“I’m proud of the work that we’ve done over the last decade not only to address immediate needs, but also to support innovative ideas and collaborative partnerships that can have deep, wide-ranging impacts on entire systems and communities,” Cipollone said.

As chief program officer for the foundation, Witherbee has directed its programs, research, and evaluation for the past 10 years.

“Hardship is not new to Maine people, but the pandemic has exacerbated many of the existing challenges they face, and we will need to remain responsive. At the same time, we are witnessing a moment of transformation, which provides an opportunity to do better by people,” Witherbee said.

“As the Foundation enters this transition and launches into our next strategic plan, we will work hard to leverage those opportunities and find creative, impactful solutions that improve the lives of Maine people."

Witherbee has a doctorate in social policy from the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Before coming to the foundation, Witherbee held a range of positions, including the creation of a consulting firm that advised clients on policy matters, analyzing federal budget impacts for the Maine Center for Economic Policy, directing policy for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, and acting as the Interim Government Affairs Director for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.

She spent her earlier years as a community organizer focused on affordable housing. Witherbee also taught courses at the University of Southern Maine, Salem State University and Bates College. She also currently serves on the boards and committees of several nonprofit organizations.

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