Dennis Quirin ’95 is in the business of creating a better world for young people. The executive director of the Raikes Foundation in Seattle, he inspires and oversees ambitious efforts to fund organizations devoted to reshaping public education, ending youth homelessness, and supporting impact-driven philanthropy for equity and systems change.
“We envision a society where race, socioeconomic status, gender, and sexual orientation will no longer predict life outcomes for young people,” he says, “and where individuals can reach their full potential, and prosperity is widely shared.”
One of the most influential leaders in philanthropy in the United States, Quirin received Carleton’s College Alumni Association Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2020. He is also the first Black executive director of the Raikes Foundation.
“I’m thrilled the field of philanthropy is becoming more diverse as we move forward in our work,” he says. “Our sector must reflect the reality of the U.S.; it must look like our communities if we are ever to succeed in building a more equitable world.”
Founded in 2002, the Raikes Foundation has awarded grants to organizations such as the National Equity Project, which supports school districts, governmental organizations, and foundations focused on creating just communities; and The Mockingbird Society, which is focused on reforming the foster care system. In August 2020, a year after he joined Raikes, Quirin formed the foundation’s Black Leadership & Power Fund, awarding $1 million in grants to organizations committed to stamping out racism.
“[The foundation] had been investing in racial equity a few years before I came on, but it hadn’t funded this work in the community in a more targeted way,” Quirin explains. Inspired by the power fund’s success, the foundation is now launching the Resourcing Equity & Democracy grantmaking portfolio.
Raised by a Black-immigrant mother and a white father in Minneapolis, Quirin lived in student housing (Dad was getting his PhD), and played with kids from a wide range of backgrounds. At age eight, when the family moved to the more segregated Nashville, Quirin stood out—“a stranger in a strange land,” as he puts it—and saw how other people of color were unfairly treated.
“It wasn’t until college that I sat more deeply with what it means to be a biracial Black man,” he says. Majoring in art at Carleton, Quirin joined the Men of Color group and started a club for multiracial students. “Carleton created a safe space for youth to explore their identities,” he says.