Executive director of Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation wins North Bay Business Leadership Pride award

J. Mullineaux

Executive director

Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation

1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa 95401


J. Mullineaux, executive director of Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation, is a winner of North Bay Business Journal’s inaugural Pride Business Leadership Awards.

Number of company employees: 5

Professional background: Nonprofit philanthropy. 17 months in current role. Over 11 years as Vice President of Philanthropic Planning for Community Foundation Sonoma County. 17 years of arts development in San Francisco.

Education: BA University of Washington in Communications; MA Columbia University in Organizational Psychology; Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy certificate from the American College

Tell us your story in your words: I am a first generation college graduate who grew up in Binghamton, New York. I was fortunate to receive full financial aid through undergraduate school and I worked my way through graduate school.

I found my voice through the arts as an adolescent and I learned to express my voice through activism in the late 80s when an entire generation of gay men were dying.

My entire career has been in the field of philanthropy and I have over 35 years of fundraising, gift planning and charitable advising experience. The happiest day of my life was when I married my husband Matt on a glorious day in Sonoma County in October 2013.

An experience that truly changed and shaped me was a trip I took in 2017. I boarded a bus with 40 other individuals and retraced the path of the civil rights movement from Nashville through Alabama, into Mississippi and across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

The history and the truth that I learned were significant, but more importantly, I discovered a community of multi-racial and intergenerational people that transformed me. I saw firsthand what is possible when a community like this is formed and nurtured.

It was a contributing factor in my move to become part of the Santa Rosa Junior College. SRJC is the perfect environment for me to help elevate others the way I was empowered when I was in college.

Personally, what have you learned about yourself within the past year -- with its economic and social challenges -- and how will it change the way you live going forward?

I became executive director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation in January 2020, just prior to the sheltering in place that occurred due to the pandemic.

This is my first experience as an executive director. I was immediately presented with the biggest leadership challenge I will ever face, and I learned very quickly that I have everything that it takes to be in this role.

I was very fortunate to have great staff at the SRJC Foundation and a tremendous Board of Directors who were extremely supportive.

Nonetheless, there were days when I was sitting at home wondering how I am going to lead this organization; I wanted it to thrive, not just survive. I was very happy when my training and instincts took over and I learned to trust the years of experience that led me to this role.

I found a deeper sense of gratitude for the preparation and opportunity I had in prior positions, especially at Community Foundation Sonoma County. I was reminded that if you really love what it is you do, you will find the energy and the answers to guide you.

It also helps if you believe in something much bigger than yourself. I believe strongly in racial equity and this pandemic has brought social and racial injustice to the forefront.

The SRJC Foundation immediately set up a Crisis Response Fund to raise funds to support students through the economic impacts of the pandemic. I read some of the early applications from students who were applying for those funds.

I will never forget the stories of students losing their jobs and in many cases supporting their parents who had also lost their jobs.

Then George Floyd was murdered and a new era of activism and action was born. There is a level of awareness and accountability that I have not seen before. I am definitely coming out of this pandemic with an even deeper commitment to social and racial justice.

Did it give you a new perspective about your career or the business you are in? What was the biggest shift in that perception?

I have been in the philanthropy field for over 35 years for good reason. I believe in the power of philanthropy to transform communities and lives. This past year has only reinforced my belief in the role that philanthropy can play. I am glad that the field as a whole is shifting toward more diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work.

Of all the things you learned about yourself in the past year or so, which one surprises you the most and why?

I believe self-awareness is very important for the work that I do. At times, I need to be very personal with people, so I need to be self-aware of my own strengths and weaknesses. I have done numerous personality and strengths inventories over time and when I started this new job I took a test that placed me right on the line between introversion and extraversion.

Sitting at home for the past 14 months, I realized I am more extraverted than I thought. I have missed the social interaction with others and the community building that comes from meeting new people and attending events. There are so many wonderful events at the SRJC such as the President’s Address to the Community and Commencement that I have not experienced in my new role yet.

I am really looking forward to experiencing the energy of being in a huge room full of people who support our students and programs.

What stereotype or bias involving the Pride movement which you most like to knock down and why?

I think the bias toward the LGBTQ community that bothers me the most is the perception of LGBTQ people’s lives in the US as filtered through the experiences of white, upper middle class, cisgender lesbian and gay people.

Although some people may feel that we achieved everything when we won the right to marry and Pete Buttigieg ran for President, the marginalized members of the LGBTQ community have certainly not experienced equal rights.

There is plenty of poverty in the LGBTQ community. There is also sexism, ageism and racism. The list of external attacks on the LGBTQ community continues.

The Pride movement is not done just because we won a few landmark court cases. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

What was the best decision you made in the past year in your professional life in the past year, and what was the worst? Tell us why.

The best decision I made recently was to become the executive director of the Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation because I am surrounded by a diverse and talented team who truly believe in the power of philanthropy and the promise of higher education. Fortunately, I do not have a worst decision example at this point.

What is the achievement are you most proud of when it comes to your professional life and why?

The greatest achievement of my professional life is an accumulation of philanthropic advising that I have provided to hundreds of individuals and couples in Sonoma County.

I have enjoyed helping donors fulfill the dreams they have for themselves, their families and their community. I have helped donors uncover the values, beliefs and experiences that have shaped them, and identify the deeper purposes of life they wish to advance now and into the future. I have connected donors to other community leaders who share their passion for giving.

I have developed deep knowledge of the local nonprofit community and have helped people find, evaluate and connect to the causes that matter to them.

For donors interested in exploring ways to engage their children or other family members in charitable giving, I helped them discover how philanthropy can be used to pass down family values and capture and record a family’s legacy.

There is no profession more noble than philanthropy, and no work more rewarding than helping people find deep meaning in their lives through philanthropy.

What are you most proud of regarding the achievements of your organization, your work and/or your community activities when it comes to the Pride movement?

I am very proud that the Santa Rosa Junior College has a Queer Resource Center (QRC) to support students at the College in eliminating barriers to equity. The QRC is a great resource for students and the broader community.

I have just started working with the Center Coordinator to develop materials that will help us raise funds for the QRC. I founded an LGBTQ Giving Circle at the Community Foundation in 2014. In addition to pooling our donations and giving them away to local nonprofits, the Giving Circle held events to educate our membership about the needs of the LGBTQ community.

The LGBTQ community is so integrated into the larger community that there really isn’t a sense of an LGBTQ community in Sonoma County. There is a real need for connection especially for LGBTQ youth and elders.

I am happy to be at the Santa Rosa Junior College where there is so much opportunity to build a sense of community, not just for our students, but for the broader community as well.

Words that best describe you: Honesty, Integrity, Sincerity, Loyalty, Compassion

As a successful professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I am a white male, so I haven’t experienced too many obstacles, and I have worked primarily in the arts, so I could mostly be myself.

Nonetheless, the biggest struggle I have had throughout my career is showing up as my authentic self. To this day, whenever I meet someone I find myself choosing whether to let the person know about my sexuality.

My seventeen year career in nonprofit arts development helped to support me in “coming out.” When you are gay you are always looking for cues and signals that it is safe to be yourself. At least that’s how it felt for someone who came of age in the 70s and 80s.

When I was applying for the Community Foundation job back in 2007 the annual report for the Foundation that year featured a story about a donor who had died of AIDS and left money to his niece to support the LBGTQ community.

I found a home there where I could flourish. It is important for everyone to be in an environment free from bias and discrimination, where they can be their authentic self. Otherwise, we only bring a certain percentage of ourselves to work every day, and no one wins from that.

This is why I am so passionate about creating environments where people can be themselves. I know what it is like to bring 100% of yourself to a job or situation, and there is tremendous power in that. Everyone should have that opportunity.

Now tell us who influenced, mentored or inspired you in the area of the Pride movement, and tell us why: I was fortunate in college to have a teacher in my first year named Jerry Baldasty who was openly gay. It was his first year teaching. His openness and honesty significantly impacted me as a 19 year old student. We are still friends today.

Larry Kramer ignited the AIDS activism movement that became such a major part of my life in the late 80s. I became a founding member of the ACTUP New York Board of Directors, I committed civil disobedience and taught non-violent civil disobedience to others.

Current reading: “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together” by Heather McGhee and “We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders” by Linda Sarsour.

Most want to meet: Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. I heard him speak at a NBBJ event in Santa Rosa and then read his book “Just Mercy.” I have visited EJI in Montgomery but have never met Mr. Stevenson. I’d also love to meet Pete Buttigieg!

Stress relievers: The garden, and walks with the dog. Deep breathing.

Favorite activities outside work: Walks along the beach, drives along the coast, overnight stays at Nick’s Cove in Tomales Bay, trips to Seattle and games at Husky Stadium!

Those who care about you, what would they say are your best qualities: Colleagues and friends have shared how much they appreciate my calm approach to challenges and the importance I place on collaboration; I truly enjoy getting to know people, working with others, and helping others with personal and professional development.

I have also been thanked for my passion for working to make improvements in communities and for causes I care about. To me, compassion and collaboration are key parts of integrity, a quality I believe to be most important.

J. Mullineaux

Executive director

Santa Rosa Junior College Foundation

1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa 95401


Show Comment

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette