PSPPI-John Palfrey

April 30, 2024

SIU’s Paul Simon Institute to probe future of local news with MacArthur Foundation president

CARBONDALE, Ill. — John Palfrey, president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will join Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute on Monday, May 6, for a virtual conversation on challenges confronting philanthropy and a major initiative to bolster local news organizations across the United States.

Palfrey will join John Shaw, the institute’s director, to discuss the foundation’s work in a number of areas, including nuclear security, climate change, criminal justice reform and journalism.

The discussion, via Zoom at 10 a.m., is free and open to the public, but registration is required. The conversation is part of the institute’s “Understanding Our New World” discussion series. Visit to register.

The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has assets of more than $7 billion and is one of the most influential and respected foundations in the world, Shaw said.

“John Palfrey is one of the most creative and innovative leaders in the world of philanthropy,” Shaw said. “He is also a modern-day Renaissance man who is a respected educator, author, legal scholar and innovator with a deep expertise in how new media is changing learning and education.”

The conversation will include discussion of Palfrey’s “passionate and effective leadership of an important initiative called Press Forward,” Shaw said.

The initiative seeks to raise $1 billion over five years “to strengthen local news coverage in the United States. He believes that supporting local news coverage is critical to renewing our democracy,” Shaw said.

Palfrey has an undergraduate degree from Harvard College, a graduate degree from the University of Cambridge and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

He is the author, co-author or editor of 10 books, including “The Connected Parent: An Expert Guide to Parenting in a Digital World,” “Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education” and “Born Digital: How Children Grow Up in a Digital Age.”

Before becoming the MacArthur Foundation president in 2019, he was the head of school at Phillips Academy Andover. Palfrey has  been a law professor and vice dean at Harvard Law School and the founding president of the board of directors of the Digital Public Library of America. He  served on the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation board for more than a decade, including six years as board chair.

Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for Palfrey on the registration form or email questions to

More information, a list of the institute’s upcoming events and past speakers and events are available.