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Remembering Mary Ann Stein

The Fund for Global Human Rights community mourns the passing of Mary Ann Stein, a pioneering philanthropist and activist, and celebrates her legacy as a dedicated champion of human rights and social justice.  

The Fund would not exist without Mary Ann. She corralled donors to provide seed money, brought Regan Ralph on board as the Fund’s first director in 2002, and enthusiastically supported the organization and its grantees everywhere she went. Mary Ann readily took risks to make big things happen and deeply respected the vision and potential of grassroots human rights groups. With Mary Ann’s leadership, the Fund enjoyed striking success over the ensuing 21 years, disbursing more than $140 million to frontline community groups and activists in some 50 countries, centering the voices of those often marginalized, and fueling effective broad-based social movements.

“Mary Ann was fearless,” remembers Regan Ralph, “whether taking on established wisdom, climbing ladders with no spotter, or trying new ways to deliver funds in repressive environments.

“Forging a partnership with Mary Ann was one of the great privileges of my life,” Regan adds. “Her support was unwavering and her love for the Fund family was a reassuring ballast through years of experimentation and challenge. She was a unique and inspiring force.”

Gabriela Bucher, the Fund’s new president and CEO, said: “I was fortunate to meet Mary Ann and to connect with her original vision for this impactful organization. I loved her inquisitive mind and felt her passion shining through. As a team, we continue to honor her legacy through our long-term support and partnership with activists and human rights defenders working in the most challenging circumstances.”

Mary Ann served as the founding Board chair of the Fund and remained an active Board member until stepping down four years ago. She regularly traveled with the Fund to visit human rights leaders, developed lasting relationships everywhere she went, and was the first to step up when crises threatened grantees and their work.

Many organizations and countless individuals benefited from Mary Ann’s leadership, vision, and energy. From her early days as a child welfare advocate in Washington, DC, to her efforts to support the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, she responded to injustice with determination and gusto. With her unending curiosity, she was deeply knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects, from international human rights and U.S. electoral law to climate change and so much more. She had a sharp and irreverent sense of humor and a deep dedication to tikkun olam—“repairing the world.”

We will miss her greatly and express our sincere condolences to her children, Gideon, Noah, and Dorothy; her extended family; and her numerous friends and colleagues.