Marge Kozina of the Racine Community Foundation is retiring as executive director effective June 30, after having served the organization since August of 1989.
“Marge has truly been the cornerstone of the Foundation for all these years,” said Jim Small, president of the Foundation’s board of directors. “Thanks to her leadership, guidance and hard work, we’ve grown from a very small unit to a major organization in Racine County. We are going to miss her leadership style and her positive outlook on how opportunities need to be fulfilled.”
Small pointed out the Foundation’s growth since 1989, when it had assets of $2.1 million. In April of this year, assets stood at $31.9 million, after reaching a high of $38.1 million in 2007. Donor and organization funds within the Foundation have grown; a review of annual reports shows that about 180 new funds have been established in the past 20 years.
Since 1989, the Foundation has awarded nearly $8 million in grants to Racine County organizations in the categories of arts and culture; community development; education; environment; health; and human services. Scholarships provided to Racine County students have totaled $1.08 million through the Foundation.
In talking about her career, Kozina (right) is quick to shift the discussion away from herself to the board members, volunteers, staff and donors, who she says are the important elements of the organization. “They are the life blood of the Foundation. They make this all work. They are the ones who put forth their effort, their time, talent and resources to help make Racine County a better place to live, work and play.”
Atty. Stephen J. Smith, who served on the Foundation board for nine years, three of them as its president, and who continues to provide legal services for the Foundation, assesses Kozina’s role this way. “Marge really cares about and understands her constituents – volunteers, donors and the office staff. She stays focused on the big picture and the main purposes of a community foundation, that it should: 1. flexibly see and address the changing needs of the community; 2. manage investments well; and 3. help private donors pursue their philanthropic objectives,” he said. “She always understood that the Foundation stool has these three legs, and she integrated her activities and those of everyone else into those three simple goals.”
During Kozina’s tenure, the Foundation was involved in a number of collaborations with other organizations, including the establishment of Racine County Youth as Resources, Leadership Racine, the Wadewitz Community Policing Office, Great Lakes Environmental Collaborative that led to the development of the Root Pike Watershed Initiative Network, among others. “All these illustrate the value of working together to improve our community now and in the future,” Kozina said. “I am proud of the Foundation’s role in all these initiatives, and our volunteers and donors who helped make them happen.”
Smith said Kozina “saw her work as more than a job. For her it has been a calling, and she really supported what I would call the community foundation movement.”
Another person who agrees with that perspective is Doug Jansson, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. “When I joined the Greater Milwaukee Foundation some 17 years ago,” he said, “community foundations were little known or appreciated across the state. That has changed in no small part because of the leadership provided by Marge Kozina and others. She has been a strong advocate for the adoption of national standards for community foundations and for the peer review process that is used today only in this state.
“She was equally an advocate,” Jansson continued, “for collaborative efforts to market the field and to work together on common issues. While most will know her work in building the Racine Community Foundation, equally important has been her contribution to the growth of the entire community foundation field in Wisconsin.”
Smith said, “Marge has been a pleasure to work with; I am profoundly sorry that she decided to retire so soon. We will all miss her valuable contributions.”
Kozina and her husband Jim, retired human resources director for the City of Racine, are the parents of two and grandparents of five. Both avid golfers, their retirement plans include some travel and definitely plenty of time on the links.