Robert Ross

[The Episcopal News] Focusing on the nexus of philanthropy and social and racial justice, California Endowment President/CEO Robert Ross – a physician and parishioner of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Altadena – will deliver Diocesan Convention’s eighth biennial Margaret Parker Lecture, slated for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Diocesan Convention in Riverside.

A leader in implementing the Affordable Care Act in California, Ross also chaired the Los Angeles County Task Force on Alternatives to Incarceration, “developing a strategic roadmap for the county to reform the criminal justice system in support of health-focused strategies to reduce incarceration in 2021,” his California Endowment biography notes.

Ross, who has announced his retirement from the California Endowment in 2024, partnered with its board of directors “to raise $300 million for a first-ever social bond by philanthropy in California, designed to invest in systems-change and movement-building support of grassroots activists in social justice.”

“We are honored and blessed that Bob Ross will offer the Parker lecture this year,” said Bishop John Harvey Taylor. “His story is about transformation – a great foundation transformed by his leadership, communities transformed by his philanthropy, and his own transformation as a person of deep faith in secular circles boldly putting his values to work, improving community wellness and combating mass incarceration. His is a thrilling 21st-century example of a faith leader, and an Episcopalian, plunging into the thick of politics and policy and bringing beloved community that much closer.”

Ross joined the California Endowment — formed in 1996 to address the health needs of Californians – in 2000. Previously, he was director of the Health and Human Services Agency for the County of San Diego.

His biography, posted by the Public Policy Institute of California, cites Ross’s “extensive background in health philanthropy and as a public health administrator and clinician. He has served as a commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health; medical director for LINK School-Based Clinic Program in Camden, New Jersey; an instructor of clinical medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and as a faculty member at San Diego State University’s School of Public Health.

He has been involved in community and professional activities at both the local and national level. He is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans and co-chair of the Diversity in Philanthropy Coalition. He is a past member of the California Health Benefit Exchange Board, the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Board, National Vaccine Advisory Committee, and the boards of Grantmakers in Health, the National Marrow Donor Program, San Diego United Way, and Jackie Robinson YMCA.

In addition to serving on the PPIC Statewide Survey Advisory Committee, he is a diplomate of the American Academy of Pediatrics and has served on the President’s Summit for America’s Future. He chaired the national Boost for Kids Initiative and was honored by the Council on Foundations as the Distinguished Grantmaker of the Year for 2008. He received his MD, MPA, and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania.

The Parker lecture series is named in memory of Canon Margaret Parker, pictured here with her husband, Canon Richard I.S. Parker, former rector of St. Cross Church, Hermosa Beach. Episcopal News file photo

The Diocesan Convention lecture series honors Margaret Parker, who died in 2007 at the age of 93. She was an active lay leader and ministry partner with her husband, the Rev. Canon Richard I. S. Parker, who served for 42 years as rector of St. Cross Church in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

Parker was deeply involved with the Episcopal Church Women of the diocese and Church Women United. She helped lead the way as The Episcopal Church began to include women and people of color in leadership roles in the 1960s and 1970s. She was a co-founder of the ECW “Today’s Woman” events, later titled “Tomorrow’s Woman,” and was named an honorary canon in 2003 by Bishop J. Jon Bruno.

The lecture series honors her life and ministry by addressing topics of peace and justice through the empowerment of women. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori delivered the inaugural address in 2008; the second was given in 2011 by the Rev. Jim Wallis, evangelical leader, author and founder of Sojourners magazine; the third in 2013 by Bishop Barbara C. Harris, first female bishop in the Anglican Communion; the fourth in 2015 by the Rev. Renita Weems, theologian, author and AME pastor; the fifth in 2017 by Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church California-Pacific Conference; the sixth in 2019 by United Farmworkers’ co-founder Dolores Huerta; and the seventh in 2021 by environmentalist Mary Nichols.