Sam Gill, the Vice President of Communities and Impact at the Knight Foundation and Senior Adviser to the organization’s president, outlines what he sees as Miami’s greatest acts of giving — and its biggest challenges. This Rainmaker profile appears in the November 2017 issue of INDULGE.
Sam Gill’s Vitals
34. Vice President of Communities and Impact, and Senior Adviser to the President, at the Knight Foundation. Sam Gill was born in Dallas to mom Barbara, a lawyer, and dad Harjinder, who immigrated to the United States from India to work as an IT consultant. The younger of two sons, Gill grew up in a suburb outside Minneapolis, going on to study political philosophy at the University of Chicago. Awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, Gill also earned a graduate degree from Oxford University. He initially planned a career as a scholar, but a desire to apply his education to the business community swayed him in another direction. Gill worked as a consultant, counseling philanthropies, elected officials and Fortune 500 companies in Washington before joining the Knight Foundation’s Miami office in 2015. Today, he steers the Foundation through each of its philanthropic initiatives, and he’s made Miami his home along with his wife, Maira, and their 2-year-old son, Fletcher.
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Shining Knight Moments
“It’s amazing to see the ideas people have come to fruition, like The LAB Miami, the Idea Center and eMerge Americas, which has become an institution. We’ve also been proud to be asking questions on how to make the entrepreneurial economy something that’s for everybody, by investing in programs like BlackTech Week and Babson College’s Women in Innovation Lab.”
On Miami’s Challenges
“Climate change and sea level rise are big questions. Miami as a city needs to answer very real and very hard questions about its future. How can we be a catalyst and how can we support new ideas and key conversations and spur the whole community toward solutions?”
“At the Knight Foundation, we’ve been focused on supporting entrepreneurship, and we remain incredibly dedicated to keeping Miami as an accessible hub for the arts. There’s been a significant commitment from Knight over the past five to 10 years, and we don’t plan on backing away from it.”
Invested in Miami
“If you look at the Pérez Art Museum, Frost Science and the Arsht Center, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a city of this magnitude that’s moved that quickly. I think it speaks to how invested everyone in Miami is, from residents who give, to institutions like Knight and the Miami Foundation.”
Best Day on the Job
“The opening of Frost Science was really exciting. To celebrate that achievement was symbolic of what you can do when everyone comes together.”
Worst Day on the Job
“When Hurricane Irma was bearing down. We tried to make some investments ahead of time to cushion the blow, but that’s so little compared to the reality of most people here.”
“Miami is a wonderful place to be. You have people from everywhere, people going to everywhere, cranes are all over the place. It feels vibrant and oriented. It’s alive.”
Best Advice Ever Received
“Lean into the thing that makes you afraid. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really doing what I want to do?’ I try to really take the time to think about what I find fulfilling and where I want to make my mark.”
Something People Don’t Know
“I’m a TV addict. It’s the luxury I afford myself. I love everything from critically acclaimed scripted drama to lowbrow comedy. My favorites right now are The Americans, Master of None, Orphan Black and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
Living Person Most Admired
“Wade Henderson, the outgoing CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. He was one of the key leaders of Civil Rights Movement. To live through what he’s lived through and have those successes. It was a privilege to witness his leadership qualities firsthand.”
“You can’t beat something with nothing. Have an idea. It doesn’t have to be a good one. What we need in the world are more ideas, not fewer.”