Board of Directors
Gara LaMarche is President of The Democracy Alliance, a group of donors, investors and movement leaders who provide millions of dollars to strengthen progressive organizations, causes and campaigns. A longtime advocate for human rights and social justice, from 2007 to 2011, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Atlantic Philanthropies, an international foundation focused on aging, children and youth, health, and human rights operating in Australia, Bermuda, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States, and Viet Nam. During his tenure at Atlantic, the foundation made the largest grant ever made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign – over $25 million – to press for comprehensive health care reform in the U.S., embraced a social justice framework for grantmaking, and worked closely with governments in several of its geographies to take advantage of opportunities to achieve changes in HIV/AIDS and nursing policies in South Africa, civic engagement and democratic reform in Ireland, a more secure peace in Northern Ireland, and many other areas.
Before joining Atlantic in April 2007, Mr. LaMarche served as Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Institute (OSI), a foundation established by philanthropist George Soros. Mr. LaMarche joined OSI in 1996 to launch its U.S. Programs, which focus on challenges to social justice and democracy. During his tenure there, OSI (since renamed the Open Society Foundations) became the leading funder of criminal justice reform, launched and supported a number of fellowship programs in justice, law, medicine and community engagement, established an office critical in the revitalization of Baltimore, and helped create and foster a network of urban high school debate leagues.
Mr. LaMarche previously served as Associate Director of Human Rights Watch and Director of its Free Expression Project from 1990 to 1996. He helped build the organization’s work in the United States and on lesbian and gay rights; conducted human rights investigations in Egypt, Cuba, Greece, and Hungary; and is the author of reports on freedom of expression issues in the 1991 Gulf War, Miami’s Cuban exile community, and the United Kingdom. He was Director of the Freedom-to-Write Program of the PEN American Center from 1988 to 1990, when PEN played a leading role in campaigns to lift Iran’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie and challenged restrictions on arts funding in the United States.
He served in a variety of positions with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), with which he first became associated with in 1972 at age 18 as a member of its national Academic Freedom Committee. Mr. LaMarche was the Associate Director of the ACLU’s New York branch and the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas. At the Texas ACLU, he led campaigns to provide adequate representation for death row inmates and oppose discriminatory treatment of persons with AIDS in the early days of the epidemic.
Mr. LaMarche is the author of numerous articles on human rights and social justice issues, which have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Nation, American Prospect, Huffington Post, Texas Observer, and Wharton Magazine, and many other publications. He has contributed chapters to several books, including the recent Human Rights Watch volume on global women’s rights, and is the editor of "Speech and Equality: Do We Really Have to Choose?" (New York University Press, 1996). He teaches courses on philanthropy and public policy and non-profit leadership at NYU’s Wagner School, where he was a Senior Fellow from 2011-2013. He has also taught a course on social movements to incarcerated men at Eastern Correctional Facility as part of Bard College’s Prison Initiative and courses on advocacy and civil rights and liberties as an adjunct professor at New School University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
In 2011-12, Mr. LaMarche was the first Senior Fellow of the Tides Foundation, and he spent the spring semester of 2013 as the first Visiting Scholar of the Haas Center for Fairness and Inclusion at the University of California at Berkeley, delivering a series of three public lectures on philanthropy, justice and politics. Mr. LaMarche chairs the Board of StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative, and also serves on the Boards of the Roosevelt Institute, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Center on Crime and Delinquency, the Open Society Policy Center, and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. He is a Senior Adviser to the Alliance for Citizenship, a member of the Poverty Advisory Committee for the JPB Foundation, the Global Advisory Board for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on advisory committees of PEN American Center and the Center for Popular Democracy.
Mr. LaMarche has been recognized as a “Good Guy” by the Texas Women’s Political Caucus and as a Voice for Justice by the Fifth Avenue Committee. He has received the John Dewey Award for Distinguished Public Service from Bard College, the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Progressive Leadership Award from USAction, the President’s Award from the National Council of La Raza, the Champion Award from the Center for Community Change, the Integrity Award from Make the Road New York, and the Hope Award from Providence House. From 1988 to 1989, he was a Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York. He has also served as a judge for the Sundance Documentary Fund, the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, the ACLU’s Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty, the Roosevelt Institute’s Four Freedoms Award, The Samuel Heyman Awards of the Partnership for Public Service, and the Lodestar Foundation’s Collaboration Prize.
A Westerly, Rhode Island, native, Mr. LaMarche is a graduate of Columbia College at Columbia University in New York.