News & Event
Dr. Myrtis Powell is a presence.
She’s not shy about sharing her opinions and is quick to laugh and flash her fantastic smile. Her background is impressive — she is the former Vice President of Student Affairs at Miami University, recently retired as the President of Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and was honored by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber as a Great Living Cincinnatian of 2005.
When Myrtis joined GCF’s Governing Board in 1999, she was intentional about what she wanted to achieve.
“I thought I could bring something to GCF to make it more visible and accessible,” she said. She felt more minorities needed to be involved with the Foundation and on its staff.
“I feel like GCF has changed — it’s certainly more welcoming,” she said. “For one, the fact that you have people that look like me here now. The whole face of the Foundation has changed.” And as a former member of the Grants Review Committee, she believes minority groups are more comfortable applying for grants.
“People are often surprised when they walk in and see an African-American woman in the room,” Myrtis said of the grants review process. “In the past, minority groups might not come through the door and that word gets around and people stop trying. Today, even if we’ve turned down a proposal, people feel they’ve been heard.”
She’s also enjoyed her work on GCF’s Strategic Initiatives Committee. She likes that GCF finds out what is important to the community and brings in other partners to help projects reach fruition. “I think the Foundation is a great community resource. It’s not just the money but being able to provide leadership and initiative. People listen to GCF. It’s an important asset to the community.”
“Over the years, Myrtis has given GCF the precious gift of her time, talents and inspiration. She has been a powerful force for transformation by teaching us that ‘change begins at home,’” said Ellen Gilligan, GCF Vice President for Community Investment. “GCF is a better, stronger and more inclusive institution because of Myrtis.”
Myrtis uses the Foundation for her own charitable gifts. She established The Lavatus V. Powell, Jr. Family Fund in memory of her husband. She was attracted to GCF for several reasons — minimal paperwork, stewardship, the grantmaking process, low management fees and tax advantages. “Someone does the work for you. You can pick up the phone and say, ‘I want $500 to go to Purcell Marian’ and that’s it, it’s all taken care of.”
A native of Evergreen, Alabama, Myrtis grew up in what she describes as a “community of caring and sharing.” She recalls her mother and friends canning food or having quilting bees to help out those less fortunate. This is a value she has instilled in her own children. “Volunteering is part of who my family was and is — you don’t take, take, take. It wasn’t a big preachy thing — it’s just who we are. We volunteer and serve on boards.”
This formidable woman said she is happy with the work and changes she’s contributed to GCF. “I try to contribute my own knowledge, experience and contacts — not just complaints,” she laughed. And flashes that smile.
Dr. Myrtis H. Powell has served on the Foundation’s Governing Board. She established a donor advised fund the same year.
Originally published in the 2005 Annual Report to the Community
As we wrap up 2019, we look back at our very impactful year of moving forward on many fronts! As your community foundation, Greater Cincinnati Foundation (GCF) is grateful for the support of and partnerships with our donors, nonprofit partners and community stakeholders to bring about a more equitable future for everyone in our region.