RACF announces leadership changes


Jennifer Leonard, who has led Rochester Area Community Foundation as president and CEO for 28 years, will retire in September 2022.  

Leonard, of Brighton, is the third top executive in the organization’s 49-year history.  

Jennifer Leonard.

Simeon Banister, of Rochester, vice president for community programs, was promoted to executive vice president. He will work with Leonard to ensure a smooth leadership transition during the coming year as the foundation marks its 50th anniversary.  

“The RACF board of directors enthusiastically looks forward to working with Simeon in his new role, and unanimously approved this transition plan in support of the foundation and the community,” said Tom Richards, board chair.  

Simeon Banister.

Before joining the foundation in 2017, Banister’s career included roles with the New York State Senate, state Department of Taxation and Finance, State University of New York and private commercial real estate firms.  

When RACF and United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes launched the Community Crisis Fund in March 2020, Banister co-led the committee that reviewed and approved grant requests. Nearly $7 million was distributed within the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

During Leonard’s tenure, the foundation’s assets grew from $32 million to $578 million, nearly two-thirds of which is permanently endowed. RACF distributed $34 million in grants and scholarships last year and more than $547 million since it was established in 1972. 

“The mark that Jennifer made on this community and everyone she worked with will be present for years to come,” Richards said. “She has been an outstanding leader who encourages and nurtures community-minded donors to address tough issues here at home and skillfully engages community partners to make our region a better place to live, work and educate our children.”