In Memoriam: Peter Hero, Synergos Senior Fellow

It is with great sadness that we share the news that Peter deCourcy Hero, a leader in the field of philanthropy and community development, passed away on August 22, 2016. Peter was a Synergos Senior Fellow, sharing his experience and knowledge as part of our network of nonprofit leaders from around the world.

For 18 years, until December 2008, Peter served as President and CEO, and then Senior Advisor, of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), a catalyst for innovative solutions to the region’s most challenging problems. During his time as CEO, the foundation grew from a small organization with less than $10 million in assets and only three staff to shepherding $1.2 billion for philanthropic purposes. Beyond the immediate impact of the giving that SCVF facilitated, Peter was instrumental in creating a culture of philanthropy among technology entrepreneurs.

Speaking to Palo Alto Online, Jeff Skoll, first president of eBay and founder of the Skoll Foundation, said:

“Peter will forever be my hero and original philanthropic mentor. Always innovative and entrepreneurial himself, he went along with the idea of using pre-IPO stock to establish the eBay Foundation at what was then Community Foundation Silicon Valley. He brought me to my first philanthropic events, where I met Bill Gates, Bill Gates Sr., and Bill Strickland. He introduced me to Steve Kirsch – who was the first to advise me to start my own foundation – and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, who created (again at CFSV) SV2, Silicon Valley Social Venture.”

Synergos’ Shannon St. John said, “We learned so much from Peter and his wisdom about the practice of philanthropy. And he was instrumental in changing expectations of the tech sector’s role in philanthropy and society.”

After serving at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Peter Hero became the founder and principal of The Hero Group, which focused on social investment and high-impact philanthropy.

Peter was also a leader in the international community foundation movement, working in Central and Eastern Europe to build a network of community foundations in the region. In recognition of this work, then-Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel appointed him to the 2002 NATO Summit Council of Advisors in Prague. Peter’s writing on community development and philanthropy has been published in the United States and Europe.

Prior to joining SVCF, Peter was President of the Maine College of Art, a four-year college of art and design and the largest cultural organization in northern New England, and headed the Arts Council for the state of Oregon. He held a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University Graduate School of Business, a Master of Arts degree in art history from Williams College, and was an honorary doctor of law from the Maine College of Art.

Photo: Peter Hero (left) with other Synergos Senior Fellows at a global Fellows meeting in the Philippines in 2004.