Guiding Principles

  • 1 Innovation. We will be an innovative and agile organization; to this end, we will rely on strategic, collaborative approaches to initiate and support pioneering programs that break new ground and challenge the status quo.

  • 2 Focus. We will focus our efforts on enduring areas of domestic and global concern; our goals especially include advancing the frontiers of biomedical science, leadership and education. We will respond to short-term societal needs and undertake programs consistent with the mission and vision of the Foundation.

  • 3 Lasting Outcomes. We seek to advance new ideas and discoveries that address the root causes of challenging problems; we will define success by objectives linked to a significantly positive and lasting impact on individuals and the broader society.

  • 4 Collaboration. We will work with and convene leaders to develop and implement strategies that support innovation and bring new ideas and information to targeted groups; new areas of collaboration will evolve as we continually reevaluate human needs.

  • 5 Core Values. We will bring to our work and seek in our relationships with others a commitment to, and belief in, the positive power of courage, hope, passion, and shared aspirations; we are committed to translate these core values into effective action.

  • 6 Leadership. To be a leader and a model both in our programs and in our operations, we will embrace appropriate levels of risk; we will foster an entrepreneurial spirit informed by inquisitiveness, due diligence, creativity, and responsible stewardship of our assets.

  • 7 Learning. We will engage in a collegial process of continuous learning, hard work and reassessment; we recognize that these qualities are essential to achievement of our mission.


Since 1953, the Rita Allen Foundation has been shaped by the contributions of many people.

The Foundation was established in 1953 and is based in Princeton, New Jersey. Its financial assets were built over time through the generosity of members of the Allen and Cassel families, including Charles Allen, Jr., Rita Allen Cassel, Milton Cassel and Lucette Cassel.

The Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program selected its first class of Scholars in 1976 as one of the first philanthropic fellowship programs of its kind for early-career biomedical scholars. The program grew out of a deep interest in improving human health, guided by input from leaders in biomedical research.

With the Scholars program, the Foundation began what would become its defining approach to philanthropy: investing in the earliest stages of big ideas that have the power to be transformative.

New resources allowed the Foundation to hire its first chief executive officer, Elizabeth Good Christopherson, and open its first office in 2009. In the years that followed, with the addition of new Board members and a strategic outlook, the Foundation continued to build on the Scholars program while expanding its venture philanthropy work to invest in innovative solutions to strengthen our democracy through civic literacy and engagement. Today, the intersection of science and democratic engagement is a promising new horizon—science requires robust public support to thrive, and it is in turn an essential element of solutions across society.

The Board of Directors of the Rita Allen Foundation is responsible for governing, advising and overseeing our policy, direction and resources. Directors assist with the leadership and general promotion of the Foundation to support our mission and needs, as well as the work of our Scholars and other grant recipients. Since 2009, the Rita Allen Foundation Board has welcomed new members with diverse backgrounds and professional experiences.

  • William F. Gadsden Chair
  • Elizabeth Good Christopherson President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Andrew K. Golden
  • Sivan Hong
  • Landon Y. Jones
  • The Honorable Thomas H. Kean
  • Carl F. Nathan, M.D.
  • David Nirenberg, Ph.D.
  • Rodney D. Priestley, Ph.D.
  • Samuel S.-H. Wang, Ph.D.
  • Emeritus Members
  • Robert E. Campbell
  • Robbert Dijkgraaf, Ph.D.
  • Moore Gates, Jr.
  • Aristides Georgantas
  • Henry H. Hitch
  • Geneva Overholser

The Scientific Advisory Committee of the Rita Allen Foundation consists of leading scientists and clinicians from outstanding research institutions. Drawing on their collective experiences in medical discovery and development, members of the Committee provide guidance for the Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program, which awards multiyear grants to early-career scientists conducting basic biomedical research in cancer, immunology, neuroscience and pain.

  • Emeritus Members
  • Douglas T. Fearon, M.D.
  • Maurice S. Fox, Ph.D.
  • Irving H. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Howard H. Hiatt, M.D.
  • Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D.
  • Arnold J. Levine, Ph.D.
  • Joan A. Steitz, Ph.D.
  • Torsten N. Wiesel, M.D.
  • Elizabeth Good Christopherson President and Chief Executive Officer
  • Kate Belyi Program and Knowledge
  • Randi Chmielewski Strategic Engagement
  • Tamika Davis Program Administration
  • Attayah Douglas Program Research and Communication
  • Eliza Fisher Collaboration Project Management
  • Nancy Kovacevich Grants Administration
  • Janie Ferguson Scurti Executive Office Assistant
  • Kari Williams Finance and Treasurer