MDRC Mourns the Passing of William Grinker, Founder and First President of MDRC


The Board of Directors and the staff of MDRC mourn the passing of William J. Grinker, founding president of MDRC. A leader in civil rights, philanthropy, and government service, Bill Grinker was the creator of innovative institutions dedicated to improving the lives of others.

In 1974, Grinker and the founding members of the MDRC Board of Directors launched the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation with support from the Ford Foundation and six federal agencies to run an ambitious, five-year, $50-million demonstration project called Supported Work. Testing whether employment programs could improve outcomes for people with a variety of disadvantages, the project developed 15 separate social enterprises across the country, each with its own board and staff and budget, to train and employ participants with little or no prior labor market experience. MDRC ran the demonstration as an intermediary and contracted the research to Mathematica Policy Research. That initial project led to a second large demonstration, the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects, in the late 1970s, and the emergence of MDRC as an important intermediary and research organization.

Bill Grinker was born in Milwaukee in 1935 and educated at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard Law School. Before creating MDRC, Grinker worked for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and the Ford Foundation. In 1986, he was named Commissioner of New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where he oversaw the agency’s $4-billion annual budget. Grinker also founded Seedco, a national community development organization dedicated to advancing economic opportunity for people, businesses, and communities in need.

“With the passing of Bill Grinker, the country has lost an incredible leader,” said MDRC President Virginia Knox. “Throughout his career, he maintained a laser-like focus on making a tangible difference for people with the greatest roadblocks to economic well-being. As an early pioneer in evidence-based social policy —always insisting on the use of data and credible evidence to improve the services that affect the opportunities of Americans every day—his legacy lives on.”

MDRC extends its condolences to Bill’s wife Miriam, his sons Shepard and Josh, his grandchildren Noah and Daniella, and his many friends and colleagues.