Board Leadership

Since 2013, there have been three presidents of the eight person TFF board and an increase in involvement from the next generation of Taucks as they age into board member eligibility. Colleen Ritzau Leth, who serves as the current board president, is “third gen”[1] and participated in the strategic planning process almost a decade ago. Leth and her fellow board members highlight both the importance and challenges of engaging younger family members–who now span in age from high school to age 40 –in the mission of the Foundation, including maintaining a connection to its geographical focus. Family members are spread internationally, making site visits to Bridgeport challenging, or impossible, amidst the pandemic.

Third generation family members are increasingly interested in ensuring the Foundation can document a “tangible return on investment” per its social investing approach, yet TFF is quantifying success using metrics that the younger generation of Taucks inherited. Will Mahar, another TFF third generation family member, joined the board in late 2019. His background in business and data analytics makes him interested in exploring an “even more deterministic way” of confirming that the Foundation’s investments are leading to the desired outcomes. As noted, the initial strategy did not include conducting an experimental design study–in which researchers aim to draw causal conclusions about the investee’s effort–within the first ten years of the strategy. Such a complex study would be costly, board members acknowledged, and a careful benefit/cost analysis would precede using Foundation assets to fund that research.

Staff Leadership

Stable leadership has contributed to the Foundation’s steady focus on its Theory of Change. TFF has had only two non-family executive directors between 2013 and 2021. Taking over from family member Liz Walters in 2010, Eden Werring led the Foundation through the development of the current Theory of Change until 2015. The second non-family executive director was Mirellise Vazquez, who also joined TFF in 2010. She first served as the Foundation’s part time administrator, then as program officer/portfolio manager once the new strategy was adopted. She took over as executive director in 2015 until December 2021. Kim Hein was hired in 2017 as program officer and began serving as interim executive director in January 2022.

“The Foundation has genuine concern and great care for the community... they do a remarkable job, especially with such a small staff.”

- Bridgeport Community Member

Mirellise Vazquez, Executive Director from 2015-2021

A Leap Ambassador and recipient of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s 2020 Marvin Maurer Award for her work at the Foundation, Vazquez is roundly considered to be a “dynamic, thoughtful leader” who is a highly effective, compassionate, critical thinker. An investee leader noted her dedication to their organization’s success: “Mirellise seemed to work for my organization as much as I work for my organization.” Several board members noted that Vazquez shares the family’s zeal for continuous improvement, humility, and passion for servant leadership. Vazquez attributes her dedication to the Foundation’s work in Bridgeport to the kinship she feels with the families and children investees serve. Born in New York and raised by working class immigrant parents, Vazquez explains: “I was that kid.” Her commitment to telling investees’ stories to other philanthropic organizations and working to deeply engage the board in the Foundation’s work is seen as a “force multiplier.”

Mirellise Vazquez

Kim Hein, Program Officer from 2017-2021 and Interim Executive Director 2022

Hein joined TFF in 2017 and has experience in the public and nonprofit sectors, primarily in program development, event management, and fundraising. Investees discussed TFF’s “high expectations” in terms of submitting detailed plans, narrative reports, sharing data, participating in focus groups and check-ins, and completing surveys. Reflecting a recurring theme among investees, one person described the benefit of Hein’s “steady, reliable” support: “Having Kim to always remind you of certain dates and what is needed and to make sure you’re working toward outcomes is wonderful.” Hein finds having a “birds eye view” of the community and identifying shared learnings and collaboration opportunities especially gratifying.

Kim Hein


TFF actively seeks collaboration with other funders, in service of greater impact. Greenwich, Connecticut-based Lone Pine Foundation also places a strong emphasis on capacity building and leadership in its education grantmaking and shares several investees with TFF. Lucy Ball, Lone Pine Foundation’s executive director, explained that some Foundations can be territorial in terms of sharing information, but TFF staff encourage contributions by other funders: “There is no ego in the way. They do not say: “TFF did this.” It is always: “WE did this all together.” They make all stakeholders feel that they’re important partners.”

TFF has emerged as one of Bridgeport’s champions over time, joining other funders to strategically invest in efforts to enhance educational opportunities, foster collaboration within the city’s social sector, and increase knowledge and transparency about Bridgeport children’s experiences. For example, the Foundation contributes to the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition, publishers of the annual State of the Child in Bridgeport Report, the Bridgeport Book Fest, and Bridgeport Prospers, the city’s collective impact civic infrastructure and a member of the national StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network.

TFF investees have presented to grantmaking, education, and nonprofit audiences across the country:

  • Joe Aleardi, Horizons Bridgeport Executive Director, and representatives from Harvard’s EASEL Lab, presented at CASEL’s Social and Emotional Learning Exchange in Chicago on Horizons at Greens Farms Academy’s implementation of SEL Kernels;
  • Bridgeport Public Schools SEL Initiative representatives, including Vazquez, led a workshop at the Grantmakers for Education Conference in San Diego entitled Equity in Education: Empowering Community Voice;
  • Ronelle Swagerty, NBFA CEO, served as one of six panelists at the National Charter Schools Conference in Washington D.C. The session title was “Show Me the Data!”; and,
  • Bridgeport Public Schools’ former SEL Coordinator, Carrie Ramanauskas and Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition at RYASAP’s Ashley Blanchard, ​​traveled to Belgium to present at the International Institute for Restorative Practices conference.

1 The Foundation was established by Arthur Tauck, Jr., in 1994 therefore there are three participating generations to date–but the family business, Tauck Inc., was established by Arthur Tauck, Sr. in 1925, and therefore spans four generations.