Last month, Orneata Prawl, one of our organization’s first board members, passed away. In honor of her life and legacy, we plan to collaborate with the PEAK Northeast chapter to create a virtual mentoring program – an initiative that will continue to foster the community of grants management professionals that Orneata helped to create.
Through the words of some PEAK colleagues who knew her best, we offer this tribute to Orneata and celebrate her many contributions to our community, the profession of grants management, and philanthropy.
From Adriana Jimenez, PEAK board member and Associate Director of International Operations, American Jewish World Service:
I had the honor of working closely with Orneata when we both served on the New York chapter committee and she was always so passionate and caring about GMN/PEAK’s mission. She cared deeply about creating a sense of community within the chapter and beyond. I will always cherish the many dinners and social gatherings she arranged to ensure we were brought together as a team on a regular basis. We will miss her deeply!
From Elizabeth Donohue, Manager, Grants, Peter G. Peterson Foundation:
When I reflected on my time with the PEAK New York Steering Committee several years ago, I remember Orneata fostered an environment of inclusion and valuing contributions from all, whether you were in the sector for one year or 20. I really appreciated that, as a new grants manager.
From Paige Granger, PEAK Northeast Co-Chair and Director of Grants Management, The Rockefeller Foundation:
Orneata was a force within our organization, working to shape it into what it is today. She leaves behind an incredible legacy, and we are all the better for Orneata being a part of our community. We have been truly blessed to have had Orneata as a part of our lives. She worked tirelessly to build and support PEAK and fought to make sure grants managers were seen. I am forever grateful for her efforts.
From Ursula Stewart, Grant Making Impact Associate, Salesforce.org:
Orneata was a champion of everything grants management and Grants Managers Network/PEAK related. She would do anything to promote our movement to being recognized as philanthropic professionals. Whatever the group requested, Orneata would make it happen. When I was co-chair, she hosted our first full-day workshop at The Rockefeller Foundation, and generously paid for space and food out of her budget!
What’s most important to know about Orneata is that she positioned GMN/PEAK to recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion during the inception of our then New York City-based organization. She talked me into co-chairing the nominations committee with her. Her mission was to ensure there was representation of all of our members. It didn’t matter if, during the beginning years, there would be only one person representing a particular identity in our organization: We wanted to give that person the ability to be seen and heard by holding a leadership role. This is more reason for me to feel so saddened that Orneata passed away just one day before the announcement of our first President and CEO. In so many instances, PEAK is the leader of philanthropic equity thinkers and doers because of the insightful ideologies of Orneata.
From Adam Liebling, Director of Grants Management, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:
Orneata was one of the most influential people in my grants management career, which is my entire adult life. She was a mentor for me and so many others. She was brash and opinionated and I loved her for it. She was so passionate about grants management and GMN/PEAK. Even after her well-deserved retirement (an event for which we on the GMN-NY board requisitioned a GMN-sponsored retirement party for her at the beautiful Municipal Art Society of New York), she still served on committees and was as engaged as ever, if not more. I know she particularly loved being a coach for new grants managers and grants managers of color. She was a force of nature, a force for good, and while I’m not religious, I’m sure she’s in heaven right now, telling Peter how he put up the gates wrong, and here’s how to do it, and she’d be right.
From Hope Lyons, former PEAK board member and GMN-NY co-chair, and Independent Consultant:
I honestly can’t remember a time since I started in philanthropy when Orneata wasn’t there cheering me on. We first met through our work on what was then the GMN-NY regional chapter board. She was thrilled to see young professionals coming into grants management – a passion that I came to learn was a defining characteristic of her professional life; I used to think I was special with her attention, but came to realize that she quietly mentored so very many of us!
Orneata was always there with an ear to listen, and calm, but passionate advice – encouraging me to focus on the positive strides we were making, yet not turn a blind eye to the challenges that I was facing, and to use them as opportunities to spread awareness around the importance of grants management in my own workplace and within the field. She always knew the best ‘hidden’ spots for a work lunch or afterwork glass of wine, and gave the absolute best hugs.
With her networking prowess and knowledge sharing, she was instrumental in establishing the field of grants management, paving the way for so many of us and undeniably improving the practice of philanthropy. We as a sector have lost a dear friend with Orneata’s passing, but I have no doubt that she is still cheering us all on and pushing us to do the best we can.