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Michelle J. DePass Steers Meyer Memorial Trust Directly Into a Moment of Reckoning

She now finds herself running Meyer at a pivotal and complicated moment.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

For Michelle J. DePass, reckoning with the ugly parts of Portland's past is an opportunity to build its future.

Two years ago, DePass became the president and CEO of Meyer Memorial Trust, the state's second-largest foundation. The $800 million trust uses the fortune of grocery tycoon Fred Meyer to create more opportunity for people of color and LGBTQ+ people, among other causes.

DePass arrived in Portland with an extraordinary record of accomplishments, including serving as an assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as dean of the New School's Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy in New York City.

She now finds herself running Meyer at a pivotal and complicated moment: On the one hand, the foundation has an unprecedented opportunity to use capital to create a different world—a more equal one. On the other, that money comes from a legacy that is hardly unblemished by its own sins, including racism.

In this interview with WW Editor Mark Zusman, DePass talks frankly about that conundrum, as well as how to weigh police reform against economic justice, and how Meyer Trust is trying to listen to what young people marching in the streets are saying.