The Knight Foundation of San Jose, a nonprofit that promotes arts and culture, welcomed Chris Thompson to succeed Danny Harris as director.
Thompson most recently served as vice president of product marketing at communications technology company Plantronics. Thompson—who can be found on Twitter @Thompson_KF—has also held executive positions in business strategy and marketing for Cisco, Network Associates, Nortel and Gartner Group.
“Knight works to bring positive transformation to all the cities where it invests,” said Sam Gill, an executive vice president at Knight. “Chris has the leadership skills and the innovative mindset needed to do just that in San Jose. He’s a longtime resident who understands the city and region, and his strong business expertise will help the city tackle new demands during a period of change and growth.”
The Knight Foundation was founded by newspaper publishers John S. and James L. Knight in 1950. The foundation funded social programs, cultural organizations, education and journalism-related causes. Knight merged with Ridder Publications in 1974 to form Knight-Ridder, the parent company to many national newspapers, including, for a time, the Mercury News.
As director of the San Jose Knight Foundation, Thompson will be in charge of Knight’s arts and community initiatives in San Jose.
“I’m good at stitching things together and showing that one plus one plus one is a a lot more than three,” Thompson said in a phone interview. “And I thought that was something I could bring to the organization with such incredible likability and gravitas.”
In the past, Knight invested over $25 million in San Jose projects, including support of the Better Bikeways network, expanding the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association and launching Viva CalleSJ, an annual event that closes blocks in downtown San Jose for people to walk, bike and skate freely.
All of that is part of their initiative to bring more sustainable transit to San Jose neighborhoods, reimagine public spaces and help promote community engagement among residents. “Bringing together the concept of how to make a vibrant place for people to live, for them to work, for them to learn—that excites me,” Thompson said.
Thompson will join Knight’s advisory board of directors: San Jose Councilman Lan Diep, Valley Tranpsortation Authority Director Nuria Fernandez, Google executive Michael Flynn, Deloitte exec Garrett Herbert, San Jose State President Mary Papazian and Pinger exec Greg Woock.
“There are people from everywhere in the world here,” Thompson said. “When we get people—even with different opinions—to solve a problem, they can do something great. I feel that way about San Jose.”