Heroes: Lifetime Achievement
Dr. Nelson I. Colón,
president and CEO
Puerto Rico Community Foundation
There are many ways to quantify lifetime achievement—statistics, accolades, milestones.
Dr. Nelson I. Colón has them all.
In his 28 years with the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (PRCF)—the last 14 as president and CEO—Colón took the institution from $2 million challenge grant to $30 million in assets in 2015, granting nearly $58 million for Puerto Rico.
He's received recognition from a diverse list of organizations in a variety of categories, from Senior Fellow of the Synergos Institute in New York to Distinguished Faculty at the 2001 Black Philanthropy Conference to Entrepreneur of the Year in social responsibility from Ernst & Young.
And he's had a hand in almost too many institutions to count—two years as chairman of the board of Hispanics in Philanthropy; leader of the Latino Presidents Group service on the Civil Rights Commission of Puerto Rico; member of the Advisory Committee for Access to Justice, appointed by the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.
It's an impressive resume to be sure. But distilling a lifetime of accomplishments into list form doesn't quite do justice to Dr. Colón's greatest achievement: a legacy of bringing real, positive change to Puerto Rico and the Latino community at large. Through his vision and leadership, Dr. Colón has given a small island a big voice, bringing international attention to issues that may have otherwise gone overlooked.
Since 1988, Dr. Colón and PRCF have led numerous education projects, like the Middle Schools Renewal Initiative, Live Arts Through Education, Educational Transformation 2014, and Puerto Rico Wants An A—a program that saw 1.2 million supporters advocate for world class education in Puerto Rico. He spearheaded Puerto Rico's Institute for the Development of Philanthropy and championed various community-based housing organizations. And he designed and launched the Economic Development Consortium, an alliance with commercial banks that invests in nonprofits promoting economic development.
Dr. Colón has dedicated his life to positioning Puerto Rico on the world map of philanthropy, and in turn has fostered a thriving culture of activism facilitating the development of future nonprofits. "We know that philanthropy is a perfect vehicle to conquer all we envision," said Mary Ann Gabino, senior vice president for PRCF. "This [award] will reinforce the message. Dr. Colón's passion and dedication to pursue social justice will continue to build bridges of hope through the nonprofit sector for generations to come."
Related story: Heroes: Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Nonprofit Professionals of the Year Awards