Jim De Vries, Heifer's longest-serving leader, retiring

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (March 16, 2010) – Heifer International announced today that Jim De Vries, Ph.D., vice president for Program Development and former executive vice president of the organization's international programs division and its longest serving employee, is retiring, effective March 31, 2011.

"Jim is one of Heifer's anchors," said Pierre Ferrari, the organization's chief executive officer. "His has been one of the steady hands on the tiller, and he helped navigate Heifer from its early days working with several thousand families to one of the world's most effective and impactful organizations, annually helping more than a million families."

"My time at Heifer has been challenging, rewarding and the fulfillment of my passion to serve and hopefully make a difference," said De Vries. "I have been tremendously privileged to see firsthand the transformational change that takes place … when people are given an opportunity to learn and the means to put that learning into practice.

"I have great faith in the capacity of small-scale farmers to feed the world while building stronger communities and caring for the Earth."

De Vries, who was born in the Netherlands and became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1962, served as senior vice president of International Programs (IP) from 1982-2008, and as executive vice president for IP from 2008-2011.

Since 1944, Heifer has provided not a handout but a way out to nearly 14 million families—71 million men, women and children—worldwide. "That's the legacy that Jim leaves," said Ferrari. "Much of our progress, our effectiveness came from Jim's gentle guidance as master of our mission."

As senior vice president, International Programs, De Vries led a headquarters team as well as Heifer's on-the-ground staff—more than 500 projects in 38 country offices—around the world. Between 1992 and 2003, he served as director of programs for Heifer and between 1982 and 1992, he directed the Africa/Near East programs for the organization.

Before joining Heifer, De Vries was a professor and head of the Agricultural Extension and Education Department at Sokoine University in Tanzania. He has his doctorate in continuing and vocational education from the University of Wisconsin, a master's degree in cooperative extension (education) and a bachelor's in history and religion from Bloomfield College in New Jersey. De Vries is fluent in English, Dutch and Swahili, as well as reading and understanding German.

On leaving Heifer, De Vries said, "I can't express all that I am feeling right now. I have so many mixed feelings about the blessings I have experienced over the last 29 years. The families I have met and come to know. The changes, the transformations I have seen, entire communities transformed by a dozen or so determined women empowered by joining together around the gifts of knowledge and livestock. And the transformation from receiving help to giving help and thus finding dignity and creating ever expanding circles of sharing and caring.

"I am awed to have been a part of this work and am excited about some of the changes I already see coming with the new leadership. So the time is right for me to step aside. I have no doubt that Heifer and its amazing staff will keep the faith, continue the quest and achieve the dream of a world of communities living in peace and equitably sharing the resources of a healthy planet."

De Vries and his wife, Judy, have been married 41 years, and they are looking forward to spending more time with their family and their grandchildren, and to volunteering with their church, St. Andrews, and to traveling together.

Heifer's mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in 50 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit www.heifer.org or call (800) 696-1918.