Passing the Baton as We Imagine a New Way

August 19, 2021

A message from The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation about recent programmatic staffing changes.

For nearly 50 years, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation has welcomed new generations of board members, staff members, and other supporters. Each time, the previous generation passes the baton to the next generation in support of our mission.

“We thank Sharnita C. Johnson, Richard Simon, and Meghan Van Dyk for their service to the Foundation and commitment to the many Dodge partners and grantees,” remarked The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation president and CEO Tanuja Dehne. “I personally admire and deeply respect their experience, collective dedication, and years of service to Dodge.”

Departing at the end of August, each has been instrumental in supporting the goals of our grantee partners throughout New Jersey; and they have carried batons forward to help advance Dodge’s strategies to strengthen the state’s eco-systems and vibrancy in arts, arts education and local journalism.

Under Arts Program Director Sharnita C. Johnson’s leadership, the Foundation re-defined its commitment and strategies for the arts. Her work also helped to catalyze the Foundation’s strategic planning and learning agenda, processes from which emerged the Foundation’s deepened strategic focus on equity. As part of Dodge’s COVID-19 crisis response strategy and in collaboration with other arts leaders in the state, Sharnita co-created and co-chairs the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund to support artists and arts organizations impacted by the pandemic. Sharnita also serves in a number of leadership roles in organizations focused on the arts and racial equity, including board chair-elect of Grantmakers in the Arts.

During his tenure at Dodge, Richard Simon has supported Dodge’s education, environment, and arts programming. His latest role has been to manage the Education program and, in this capacity, he has affirmed the Foundation’s commitment to equity through programs addressing culturally relevant arts education and participation in statewide initiatives to address trauma-informed healing in schools. Richard was also a member of the grants review committee of the New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund, Grantmakers for Education’s Arts Education Impact Group, Grantmakers in the Arts Funders Coalition Advisory Committee, NJPAC Arts Education Advisory Committee, and the Arts Ed NJ Steering Committee.

Communications Director and Informed Communities Program Officer Meghan Van Dyk managed Dodge’s strategic communications and helped define the Foundation’s strategy to facilitate community building and civic engagement through local journalism, creative storytelling, and community media projects. Toward the goal of growing and strengthening the state’s news and information ecosystem, Meghan also managed relationships with funders, community leaders, and journalists. In her role, she also worked with Democracy Fund, Center for Cooperative Media, the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium, and others to launch a local news collective impact initiative.

As with any staff arrivals or departures, Dodge will continue to review and realign our organization to ensure we have the capacities needed to advance our strategic direction focused on root cause and repair of structural racism and inequity in New Jersey. Over the last 12 months, as the organization has continued to Imagine a New Way, Dodge has onboarded new senior leaders, trustees, partners, and other supporters to further its vision of a just and equitable New Jersey.

“We are all in this together,” said Preston D. Pinkett III, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “We wish Sharnita, Richard, and Meghan all the best, and are proud to know they will go on to share their learnings and experiences from Dodge’s equity journey in their future endeavors. “

If you have programmatic questions about Dodge’s Arts, Education and Informed Communities programs, please contact Marianna Schaffer, Vice President of Programs ( Inquiries about Dodge’s communications may be directed to Jennene Tierney, Vice President of People, Culture and Equity (