Author Wes Moore Will Be CEO of Robin Hood Nonprofit

By Leslie Brody Features Dow Jones Newswires

Wes Moore, a best-selling author who escaped a troubled youth in the Bronx to become a Rhodes Scholar and social entrepreneur, will be the new chief executive officer of Robin Hood.

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The nonprofit, which is announcing his appointment Tuesday, says it aims to fight poverty among 1.8 million New Yorkers by funding more than 200 schools, food pantries, shelters, job training centers and other initiatives. Its officials said it invested about $130 million in such grants last year.

Mr. Moore, 38 years old, says he will take charge of the organization at a time of particular urgency, as many programs serving the most vulnerable families are at risk of federal and state budget cuts. He called the mission to address their suffering "our collective responsibility."

"It's an incredibly important period for us to really dig in and get serious about the level of engagement we have, particularly when it comes to remediating pain that, for many people, has been generational pain," he said in an interview. "We can do it."

His personal experiences inform his advocacy. He was a 3-year-old in Baltimore when his father died from a sudden illness and he moved with his mother to New York City, where his grandfather was a minister in the South Bronx. His mother juggled several jobs to send him to the private Riverdale Country School.

"I very quickly found myself too poor for the kids in my new school...but too rich for the kids in my neighborhood," he said. He says he acted out and was handcuffed at age 11 for vandalism.

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His mother sent him to military school, where he thrived. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University and got a degree in international relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

His resume notes that after graduation, Mr. Moore was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and a captain in the U.S. Army, serving a combat tour in Afghanistan. He later became a White House Fellow assisting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Moore's best seller, "The Other Wes Moore," describes his effort to get to know another African-American man about his age in Baltimore named Wes Moore, who was in prison for murder. "The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine," the author wrote. "The tragedy is that my story could have been his."

Mr. Moore has advocated for mentoring programs and founded BridgeEdU, which helps low-income students reach college and complete it.

"People can say isn't it wonderful that you made it out," he said. "We're never going to cherry-pick our way to solutions. We can't look at single isolated stories and think that that is going to be enough to help us get to bed at night."

Geoffrey Canada, a Robin Hood board member and president of Harlem Children's Zone, a nonprofit social services and education network, called Mr. Moore a brilliant and compassionate leader.

"He is driven by a need to give back, to level the playing field, to make our country a better place for those who have no voice," Mr. Canada said by email. "In my opinion Robin Hood could not have found a better leader for these challenging times."

When Mr. Moore starts his new job in June, he will be Robin Hood's first chief executive officer. David Saltzman, who served as executive director, recently moved on to the board.

A Robin Hood spokeswoman declined to say Mr. Moore's pay, but noted that the board covers administrative costs, including salaries, so that all other donor dollars go to poverty-fighting programs.

According to 2014 tax filings for Robin Hood, the most recent available, Mr. Saltzman had total compensation that year of $702,101 as executive director.

Robin Hood says it has raised $2.5 billion from over 360,000 donors since it was launched in 1988. Its high-profile board includes former U.S. Secretary of Education John King, Jr., former chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools Kaya Henderson, and Jacklyn Bezos, president of the Bezos Family Foundation.

Write to Leslie Brody at leslie.brody@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 25, 2017 00:14 ET (04:14 GMT)