As president and CEO, Judy Belk leads The California Wellness Foundation in pursuing its mission to improve the health of the people of California. In her role, she uses her vision and her voice to help Cal Wellness “level the playing field” so that everyone has access to good-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods and quality health care services.
Belk is a seasoned leader with more than 25 years of senior management experience in the philanthropic, government, nonprofit and corporate sectors. Before joining Cal Wellness in April of 2014, she served as senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), a position she held since 2002. She played a pivotal role in building RPA into one of the nation’s largest independent nonprofit advisory firms, which advises on more than $300 million annually in more than 30 countries. She launched the firm’s West Coast and Midwest operations and helped position RPA as a global “thought leader” in promoting effective strategic philanthropy, impact investing, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Previously, Belk served as vice president of global public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., reporting directly to the chairman and CEO, with responsibilities for both the company’s and the foundation’s leadership in the global fight against AIDS, as well as their economic development, environmental and antiracism initiatives. She led a global team in pioneering work on AIDS education and prevention, and on women’s economic development, and launched Project Change, a national antiracism initiative, which was recognized by President Bill Clinton with the first Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership in 1998. She also developed and led the company’s philanthropic efforts in postapartheid South Africa.
She is a frequent writer and speaker on organizational ethics, race and social change, and her work has been recognized with several state and national awards. Her pieces have aired on National Public Radio and appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
Throughout her career, Belk has been a strong advocate in promoting diversity, inclusion and equity both within and outside of the philanthropic sector. She has been a passionate voice in raising awareness of the needs of women and girls, as well as communities of color. She has been actively involved in the D5 Initiative, a national coalition of philanthropic leaders committed to increasing philanthropic resources for women, for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, and people of color.
She currently serves on the boards of the Surdna Foundation, a national New York-based family foundation, and the Marlborough School, a Los Angeles-based independent school for girls. Past board service includes Southern California Grantmakers, National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Belk received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and her master’s degree in public administration from California State University, East Bay, where she was recognized as the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. In 2000 and 2013, she participated in residencies at Hedgebrook, a retreat for female writers in the state of Washington.