Remembering Barnett Baron

Dr. Barnett Baron, former President and CEO of Give2Asia, and former Executive Vice President of Give2Asia’s sister organization The Asia Foundation, passed away at his home in California on December 8. To the end he remained insightful and passionate about philanthropy’s role in Asia and about the importance of strengthening civil society in the region.

Baron served with the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation with great distinction for 16 years, followed by his leadership for two years at Give2Asia, a not-for-profit advising individuals, corporations, and foundations on their philanthropic needs. Baron was a staunch believer in the catalytic role of philanthropy and aid in an emerging Asia Pacific. Prior to joining The Asia Foundation, he was a Visiting Scholar at the East Asian Institute of Columbia University, where he organized and edited Philanthropy and the Dynamics of Change in East and Southeast Asia (1991), the first comparative study of contemporary philanthropy in Asia. With others he created the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium (1994) and served as its founding chairman and on its board until 2005.

Baron was widely published in the fields of Asian and international philanthropy and he co-chaired the United States International Grantmaking project of the Council on Foundations. He served on the Advisory Board of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Civil Society of the City University of New York; the Advisory Board of the Center for Civil Society and Governance of the University of Hong Kong; and on the editorial boards of several international academic journals.

Baron joined The Asia Foundation in 1993 as Vice President and Regional Director for South and Southeast Asia and in 1994 he became Executive Vice President. His contributions included managing strategic planning processes and serving as staff liaison and logistics manager for two presidential searches. In his administrative capacity he supervised the Foundation’s financial, administrative, human resources, and communications departments. He also served as mentor and guide to many staff throughout the Foundation. Baron worked closely with the Foundation’s Asia-based Country Representatives and others to establish the Foundation’s offices in Vietnam and China, and oversaw or contributed to Foundation programs in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and both South and North Korea. He represented the Foundation on several committees of the Council on Foundations, and was a key member of a Council task force set up to negotiate with the Treasury Department on appropriate anti-terrorist funding guidelines.

While at The Asia Foundation, Baron was a trusted advisor to the board and management team at Give2Asia during its first 10 years of operation. After joining Give2Asia as President & CEO, Baron oversaw the organization’s disaster relief and recovery funding for Japan following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.

Prior to joining The Asia Foundation he was Vice President for International Programs at Save the Children (1991-93) and served for 16 years with the Population Council, initially in Africa and later in Asia. As the Council’s Senior Representative for East and South Asia, based in Bangkok, Thailand, Baron was responsible for supervising the Council’s demographic, economic, and contraceptive research and assistance programs in 15 Asian countries. He was assistant professor of political science at Columbia University from 1970 to 1972 and returned to Columbia as a Visiting Scholar at the East Asian Institute for the 1988-91 academic years.

Baron earned a bachelor’s degree in Government and History from New York University (1963), and his master’s (1964) and doctoral degrees (1969) in Political Science from Yale University. He is survived by his wife Udomluck Abhainukool Baron and his daughter, Kathryn.