A visionary who tackles seemingly daunting challenges head-on, Elsie McCabe Thompson joined the Mission Society, one of the nation’s oldest social service organizations, in April 2014.
Elsie has guided the nonprofit, now in its third century of fighting the war on poverty, into a new era, starting with the relocation of its administrative offices to the Mission Society’s Minisink community center in Harlem. In her first year of leadership, she tripled the organization’s endowment, strengthened the Mission Society’s educational and cultural enrichment programs, and forged a long-term programmatic partnership with the Afro-Latin Jazz Alliance (led by multiple Grammy-winner Arturo O’Farrill).
Throughout her life, Elsie’s inherent drive, coupled with her unwavering commitment to help the underserved, has been at the heart of her success. In 2011, she was one of the first people, selected from an international pool of candidates, to be awarded the Ford Foundation Visionary Award for her “singular determination” to “enrich the lives of all through a deeper engagement with African culture and art.”
Elsie is the former President of the Museum for African Art. During her tenure, she transformed the tiny, financially struggling institution without assets or a collection into a premier arts institution recognized around the world. Previously, she served as New York City Mayor David Dinkins’ Chief-of-Staff, overseeing the City’s nine Constituency Affairs offices; its City, State, and Federal Legislative Affairs offices; the Human Rights Commission; the U.N. Commission; and the Community Development Agency, among other areas. During her tenure there, she organized the first mayoral delegation to South Africa.
Previously, in the private sector, Elsie was a senior litigator with Shearman & Sterling, where she specialized in commercial and banking litigation, and led litigation teams in a wide variety of matters in the Federal and State courts. While practicing law, she co-founded and ran a training and mentoring program for minority students, providing educational programs for more than 10,000 young people.
In June 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Elsie to serve on the New York State Council on the Arts. Additionally, Elsie has served on a number of nonprofit and for-profit corporation Boards, including the National Executive Service Corps; Union Theological Seminary; New York Cares; the Harlem Day Charter School; All Souls School; the Trinity School; International House, and the Learning Care Group [Nasdaq: LCGI]. Currently, she serves on the boards of the National Recreation Foundation, National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy and the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY).
Elsie McCabe Thompson is a graduate of Barnard College and Harvard Law School. She resides in Harlem with her husband, William Thompson, Jr., former New York City Comptroller, and their three children.