Taking the Time

For most of his professional life, W. John “J” Mullineaux (B.A., 1982) has worked diligently for the betterment of others through various endeavors, rarely taking the time to recognize his own achievements. Through numerous positions spanning decades and today as the Vice President for Philanthropic Planning at Community Foundation Sonoma County, it’s always been about serving broad community uplift through the arts, fostering legacies, and living a life of gratitude.Mullineaux, J - Headshot Smaller

“I’ve raised a lot of money. If I try to quantify it, it’s probably over $400 million,” Mullineaux said of his 30-year career in fundraising, gift planning, and charitable advising. However, to tie down his accomplishments to a simple dollar figure would be to miss most of his story.

Mullineaux moved to Seattle in 1978 from upstate New York as the first in his family to attend college. He chose to attend the University of Washington because that was where his partner received the best financial aid package. For years, Mullineaux hid this truth and his sexual identity from people fearing the harsh treatment common at the time for choosing to love openly.

Given his background and upbringing, Mullineaux felt fortunate to work with advisor Kathy Nicholls at the UW Educational Opportunity Program to fund his education, eventually securing a work-study job in her office. Passionate about reaching out to high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to speak about college opportunities and engaged in AIDS activism on campus, Mullineaux says he began to discover his true self and voice at the UW. He also cites exceptional mentors along the way, specifically a professor in the Department of Communication that played an integral role.

Jerry Baldasty was one of the most influential people on me. I had him for Media Law my first year there and it was his first year teaching, so he wasn’t that much older than me! I can remember him standing in front of my class and his presence and just who he is was such an inspiration to me. People like him began to draw me out. The real me.”

Leaving the UW Department of Communication with a much more honed and developed sense of self, Mullineaux earned a degree in organizational psychology at Columbia University and then entered the job market where he would forge his own unique professional path driven by a passion for the arts.

After a successful career as director of development at the San Francisco Ballet, Mullineaux decided to move to a different arts-related project, establishing a new home for San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. Valerie Pechenik, Human Resources Executive at Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, recruited and hired Mullineaux primarily for a relocation campaign. He was brought on at a particularly delicate time.

“It was a very tough time for everyone involved with the campaign. The museum was not in a good financial situation. There was a lot of angst and issues with team morale,” says Pechenik. “Then J was brought on. He was the one that pulled everything together. He cared about how people related to each other and how they worked together. He was beloved by the senior staff, by his staff, by the custodial staff. Everyone just loved him.”

That warm spirit, coupled with a lot of hard work by Mullineaux and others, led to the successful $160 million dollar relocation of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. Remembering back, Mullineaux says, “I moved to that campaign because I wanted to drive by when I was older and say, ‘I worked on that and made that building possible.’”

Today, Mullineaux is helping others craft their legacies at Community Foundation Sonoma County in Northern California. There he meets with individuals and their families who are getting older and want to make sure the wealth they accumulated in their lifetime means something long after they’re gone.

Elizabeth Brown is the President and CEO of Community Foundation Sonoma County and spoke with exuberance about working with Mullineaux.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone whose personal mission was so aligned with their professional mission. J is a deeply giving person and someone who operates with the notion of gratitude for everything. So that is something that not only makes up who he is, but then that’s his job!”

Reflecting on his life at the UW, Mullineaux remembers the importance of moving to Seattle and taking part in social justice efforts such as working for Upward Bound during the summer. These experiences have been a big part of his social justice work throughout his life.

“Equity and justice have been core values for me and were a big part of my AIDS activism in the late 80’s,” said Mullineaux. “I actually taught civil disobedience! And today I mentor a high school student who will be the first in his family to attend college.  The UW taught me about gratitude and now my whole life is about gratitude.”

Former colleague Valerie Pechenik had this to say about Mullineaux in summary:

“What sticks out for me are all the nice things that he did for so many people. He was such a thoughtful person who reached out across the museum in his time there. I saw him connect on a personal level with people whether they were having a personal or professional issue. He was there for them. That’s who he is,” she said. “He made a big point to recognize his staff in different ways and he wasn’t one to ever steal the spotlight. I’m so happy that he is now getting this recognition. It is so deserved.”

Current colleague Elizabeth Brown echoed that sentiment:

“I feel honored to work with him and to be a witness to his gifts and his contributions to the community.” She added, “I hope in getting this award, because he is so giving and does so much for others, that this is a moment he can just soak in and be wowed by all the work he has done.”

On October 4, J Mullineaux will, for a few hours, be respectfully asked to put aside his work serving others and take the time to enjoy some well-earned acclaim, as he will be inducted into the UW Department of Communication Alumni Hall of Fame. Time well spent.

To RSVP or learn more about the event, click here.