The board of directors of The John R. Oishei Foundation announced Christina P. Orsi will lead the region’s most comprehensive private foundation. Named as the new president, Orsi will be the first woman to hold that title in the organization’s history, succeeding Robert D. Gioia, who retires in January 2022 after 15 years of service.
Orsi, who currently serves as the associate vice president in the office of economic development at the University at Buffalo, will begin her tenure on Jan. 24.
The Oishei Foundation partnered with Koya Partners, an executive search firm that specializes in leading mission-driven searches, to conduct the national search for its next president.
A press release stated, “For over 20 years, Orsi has been a catalyst for driving innovation and entrepreneurial advances in Western New York, and instrumental in attracting new business connections, forging sustainable partnerships, stewarding billions of revitalization funds to the area and encouraging entrepreneurial ventures, with focus on community growth and transforming the region by capitalizing on its rich assets.
“Orsi brings a deep portfolio of economic development work, leading organizations and initiatives that have improved Western New York. At UB, she has led universitywide economic development efforts and built connections with the private sector to advance entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.”
Overseeing UB’s business and entrepreneur partnerships office, she worked to help businesses and other community partners connect with UB researchers and resources, stewarding over $100 million in grants to support UB’s economic development mission. With key partners, she advanced multiple high-priority and high-profile projects to deliver on her mission of engaging the entrepreneurial community and pushing innovations to impact in Western New York and beyond.
Prior to joining UB, she provided strategic direction for the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council and played an integral role in New York state’s Buffalo Billion economic development plan. In these roles, Orsi has had deep involvement in the community, working with diverse stakeholders including the nonprofit sector, business, government, education and community organizations.
Oishei Foundation Board Chairman William G. Gisel said, “Christina has a wealth of experience and expertise in working to improve Western New York that closely aligns with the mission of the foundation. Her vast network in all facets of the community will be extremely valuable to the foundation’s work. She brings important perspective on economic development and entrepreneurship that will complement the work of Oishei in areas such as workforce development and addressing poverty. We were impressed with her passion for this community and her desire to address some of the most challenging issues Western New York faces, and we are very confident that she has the right skills and the perspective to lead the work of the foundation.”
Orsi said, “I chose to make Western New York my home and have spent my career advancing the growth of our community. From Rochester, I came for graduate school at the University at Buffalo and never left. I fell in love with this community. This town and its people have grit, and hearts that swell with pride for their neighborhoods, their home teams, their families and for the rich history, architecture and natural assets that make up this binational melting pot. I am relentless in rallying a team to help ensure that everyone participates in Buffalo’s revitalization. As the new leader – during what is inarguably the most profound time in recent history – I will be a catalyst for change, embracing innovation, inclusive of different perspectives, and a collaborative connector with an unwavering mission that drives positive impact in our community. It is a privilege to help carry on the legacy of Mr. Oishei as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.”
UB President Satish K. Tripathi said, “Christina has done a tremendous job elevating UB’s place in our region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem while dramatically advancing our university’s role in the economic vibrancy and prosperity of Western New York. Through her creative and highly collaborative style of leadership, she has amplified UB’s support for faculty and student startups and created synergies between our researchers and our business/industry partners that have spurred innovation, solved pressing problems and sparked growth. Moreover, during her impactful career at UB, Christina has helped extend our educational mission through workforce development partnerships, especially with historically disadvantaged communities. While we will greatly miss her as a member of our UB leadership team, we are delighted that she will continue using her formidable talents to serve the best interests of our Buffalo and Western New York communities as president of the Oishei Foundation.”
In addition to her roles at UB and Empire State Development Corp., Orsi has also served with Invest Buffalo Niagara and the Buffalo Niagara Partnership supporting business growth and attracting investment to the area. Her community involvement includes membership on the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, as a founding board member of 43North and of TechBuffalo, and a board member, Invest Buffalo Niagara, and Upstate Capital. She has also served on the board of Catholic Charities.
She holds a Master of Science in public affairs and urban planning from UB and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the State University of New York at Fredonia.
Orsi will lead a staff of nine and manage the Oishei Foundation’s assets of more than $320 million in five focus areas: education; health care; neighborhood stabilization; self-sufficiency; and arts, culture and heritage.
The John R. Oishei Foundation is the most comprehensive private foundation in Western New York focusing on a broad range of interrelated issues and offering philanthropic support that goes far beyond funding. Its mission is to enhance the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara Region through grantmaking, leadership and network building. The Oishei Foundation was established in 1940 by John R. Oishei, founder of Trico Products Corp.