Family Focus Founder and Board Chair on Retirement of President, CEO

Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that nearly a decade has passed since Merri Ex became the CEO and President of Family Focus. As Merri plans a well-deserved move into retirement, we take this opportunity to say “Thank You” and reflect on Merri’s transformational impact on Family Focus.

As CEO, Merri wore many hats.  As a financial steward for the organization, Merri led the efforts to increase private funding from new donors, public and private sources by almost 30% during her tenure.

As a civic leader, she represented Family Focus and the Chicago community through her service on the Mayor of Chicago’s Early Learning Executive Council, through her appointment to the Illinois Children and Family Services’ Advisory Council and as a Vice President of the Chicago Alliance for Collaborative Effort. In each organization, she is warmly recognized as an enthusiastic collaborator and a creative problem-solver.

At Family Focus, Merri has embraced all our programs. She led us to develop the Power of Fathers initiative, helping men finding their path to being engaged and caring fathers. She has also nurtured the development and growth of the next generation of nonprofit leaders by creating the Emerging Leaders program for Family Focus staff, many of whom have risen to leadership roles serving our community.

Merri guided Family Focus through the challenge of the State of Illinois’ 2017 budget crisis. Faced with enormous potential layoffs and program cuts, Merri activated a state-wide support team to advocate for those we serve and for our staff who are so dedicated to our mission. We survived the crisis and became better, stronger and more focused in our commitment to our mission as a result.

Merri has always had her eye on the next step, the next opportunity for growth. This past year she guided our enrollment into Bridgespan’s nationally-acclaimed two-year consulting program, providing senior staff with team leadership skills that will take us through the transition to our next President and CEO.  There is no greater gift to an organization than leaving its board, staff and volunteers enthusiastic and hopeful about the future. Family Focus has appointed a board-led search committee. They have selected Koya Leadership Search to help identify our next leader who we hope will begin on July 1, 2019.

On a personal note, we will miss Merri’s enthusiasm, warmth and commitment to Family Focus and the Human Services field. Managing a nonprofit organization is a challenge. Its existence is defined by carrying forth the vision of those who have come before and by an ever-evolving vision and commitment from those who will guide the future. We are most grateful to Merri’s leadership.  Please join us in wishing Merri health and happiness in her retirement.  We are grateful to have had her as a champion, colleague, mentor and friend for so long.


Bernice Weissbourd
Founder and Chairman Emerita


Vaughn Gordy
Board of Directors, Chair