From the moment that David and I started thinking about setting up a fund to support the arts in Trenton, Jeff was extraordinarily helpful, supportive and inspiring.  Without him, I don’t know if we would have even thought of the idea!  He made a huge difference with us, and I have been so impressed with his commitment to and understanding of our entire community.

John Hatch, Former Community Foundation Trustee; Co-Founder, Trenton Arts Fund

While a trustee of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, I was privileged to serve on the search committee that hired Jeff as CEO:  he was our unanimous choice.  He greatly enhanced the assets of the Community Foundation, and expanded its strategic reach to work with community organizations of all sizes to expand impact.  Most recently, I was delighted to partner with him in my role as chair of the Fund for Women and Girls.  His support of our work in improving the lives of economically disadvantaged women and children has made a meaningful difference.  He will be missed.

Carolyn Sanderson, Former Community Foundation Trustee; Chair, Fund for Women and Girls

Just sending the love and support of the HomeFront team at this incredibly difficult time.  We share your grief at the loss of such a consequential member of our community who meant so much to so many of us.

Sarah Steward, Chief Executive Officer, HomeFront

I have counted Jeffrey among my most trusted and gifted friends, stemming from his earliest days when he joined New Brunswick Tomorrow after graduating from the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers. Jeff re-envisioned that groundbreaking community problem-solving agency, turning its attention to the neighborhoods and issues so vital to New Brunswick’s shining promise. I am also very grateful to Jeff for serving on the Board of Trustees of Lead New Jersey for six years. On our Board, Jeff’s insights and ideas proved pivotal to our growth as an organization, and to my own leadership development.

Jeff’s elevation to be only the second President of the Princeton Area Community Foundation came at no surprise, and he shaped that philanthropy in the direction of greater inclusivity and sensitivity to the communities and needs all around us. It is his kind heart, empathetic ear, and generous spirit that have most guided me, setting the example of the very essence of a leader worthy of following.

Jeff’s steadfast presence will be sorely missed, but I know that for those of us who were privileged to know him, his spirit endures and his life’s work of helping others continues through us.

Mark Murphy, Former Community Foundation Trustee; President, Lead New Jersey

It’s so sad to have such a kind soul leave us early, but I’m grateful to have met Jeff and I hope his family can feel great pride in his legacy.

Joshua Morgan, Senior Director of Institutional Advancement, Hamilton Area YMCA

I greatly enjoyed working with Jeff, and I know he will be sorely missed by all who knew and worked with him. Please extend my condolences to all my friends at the foundation with whom I worked in the past. Sadly, we are together again in grief, but also grateful for the time we had with Jeff.

Andy Goodman, Founder, The Goodman Center

Jeff will be terribly missed by our community. He cared deeply about nonprofits and the people we serve. He has left behind a great legacy. He was a wonderful partner to NonProfitConnect. Our thoughts are with his family and our PACF colleagues in addition to our own feelings of loss.

Allison Howe, Executive Director, NonProfitConnect

It was with such sadness that the board and staff of American Theater Group heard of the passing of Jeffrey Vega. Although we have only been connected to the Community Foundation for a relatively short time, Jeffrey’s impact on our organization has been tremendous. His leadership in creating the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund has been paramount to our organization’s continued existence in the post-pandemic era, and we know the same is true for many of our peers. Jeffrey had an undoubtedly wide-reaching and positive impact on our community through his service at the Community Foundation and the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers; we are saddened by his passing and send our sympathies to his wife, son, family, and friends.

Jim Vagias, Producing Artistic Director, American Theater Group

It’s incomprehensible to me, as I’m sure it is to all of you, that we could have lost such a kind, giving, talented, generous-spirited, remarkable man at such a young age. Please know that our thoughts are with all of you.

Barbara Coe, Former Community Foundation Trustee

Jeff’s passing is heartbreaking for the community he so loved. He led the Community Foundation during a time of growth and statewide recognition. I had the privilege to serve with him on the COVID Relief and Recovery Fund and his commitment to that work was an  inspiration. But mostly I will remember him as a kind man, whose smile lit up any room he entered, and who honored his family with a generous, loving heart.

Jamie Kyte Sapoch, Former Community Foundation Trustee; Lead Advisor, The Bunbury Fund

I join with everyone who knew him for even the briefest of time as I did in expressing shock and deepest sorrow. Please extend all my sympathy to his wife and son, the Board Chair and members of the Board of Trustees, and to his loyal, dedicated and hard working staff. Jeff left his mark on this community which will only deepen in importance and meaning with the passage of time.

Susie Wilson, Former Community Foundation Trustee

We were deeply saddened to learn that our dear friend, and Past-President, Jeffrey M. Vega, passed away Sunday night.

He leaves behind an incredible legacy of public service and charity, leaving an indelible mark in countless lives across our great City of New Brunswick.

Our hearts go out to his family, friends and all who loved him.

New Brunswick Tomorrow

Jeff was one of our state’s most recognized and beloved leaders in New Jersey’s philanthropic sector. Jeff joined the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers’ Board of Trustees in 2016. He led and guided the Board through the pandemic years, a leadership transition, and strategic planning process.  With kindness, wisdom, and perception, he led the Council during difficult times. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, the staff and board at the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and all of us, as we reflect on how best to remember our colleague and friend.

Craig Drinkard, CNJG Board Chair; Theresa Jacks, CNJG President & CEO

It was immediately clear, from our first interaction to our last, that Jeff had a deep and unwavering commitment to serving others and working tirelessly to improve the lives of children and families. While the enduring quality of his legacy surely does not make the event of his passing any easier, I am certain that those of us at Metis and the entirety of the partners, grantees, districts, and staff associated with the All Kids Thrive Initiative (not to mention all the other efforts he led at, and outside of, PACF) have been enriched by his leadership and vision for a better future.

Artis Bergman, Senior Research Associate, Metis Associates

Jeff meant so much to so many in New Jersey. To us, Jeff was a trusted advisor, a reliable friend, a moral beacon, and a life-long New Jerseyan with a vision for a kinder, fairer, more just home state offering prosperity for all.

But Jeff was more than just a man with a vision. He was action-oriented. Through his work at New Brunswick Tomorrow and later at PACF, Jeff demonstrated that achieving progress in New Jersey requires smart, strategic investments that benefit the communities and people that need them most. He spent his career ensuring that resources flowed to the organizations and people capable of creating a New Jersey that provides opportunities for everyone to thrive.

We were privileged to work with Jeff in a variety of capacities. Our hearts are with Jeff’s son Nico, his wife Angela, and his colleagues at PACF.

Dr. Richard E. Besser, President & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

On behalf of Big Brothers Big Sisters, our deepest condolences on the passing of Jeff. We were fortunate to work with him when he presided over New Brunswick Tomorrow, and he was an amazing advocate for those less fortunate in our communities.

We will remember him fondly and know that his legacy lives on.

William A. Salcedo, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Coastal & Northern NJ

It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Jeffrey Vega. His vision and kindness touched the lives of many people in our community.

We were proud to partner with Jeff through a 2022 Community Impact Grant awarded by the Princeton Area Community Foundation. It helped us expand our gardens, which have provided over 6,500 pounds of produce to people in need since the early pandemic.

Support from the Princeton Area Community Foundation also led to the development of our Historic Garden at Point Breeze. This garden provides fresh produce to combat food insecurity in Bordentown.

Thank you, Jeff, for supporting our “people helping people” initiative, providing food to the hungry through the incredible bounty of preserved land!

D&R Greenway Land Trust

I am so sorry to hear about Jeff’s passing. He was such a supporter of the work we are doing in HTSD. I’ve always appreciated PACF’s support, but it went beyond grants. It was the connection to us, the school community, and our students that I respected and was thankful for as a superintendent and person. His genuine interest in our success motivated us to work towards our goals.

His passing will be felt by all of us.

Dr. Scott Rocco, Superintendent, Hamilton Township School District

We are shocked and saddened. Jeff offered so much to our community, especially during the critical pandemic time. Our heartfelt sympathy to his family and to the staff and board of PACF.

David R. Fox, Executive Director, Arm In Arm

Jeff was highly regarded and admired by so many of us. My heart goes out to his wife, son, and his extended family as well as to those of you who worked most closely with him. He was always a tremendous supporter of our fatherhood work and, in fact, we honored him as a Platinum Dad in 2018. I first met Jeff when he was leading New Brunswick Tomorrow….destined for greatness all those years ago.

A true champion, his memory will always be in my heart.

Karen Andrade-Mims, CEO, The Father Center of NJ

Such an extraordinary life. Such an extraordinary legacy. Rest in Peace Jeff Vega.

Shannon Mason, Community Foundation Trustee

We join everyone in mourning the passing of our beloved friend and former board member (and many years ago, former Center staff member) Jeff Vega. Words cannot do justice to his impact and his long, deep, and enduring legacy. Our hearts go out to his family, the PACF board and staff team, his many friends and colleagues, and everyone he touched. His passing is a huge loss, and he will be deeply missed.

NJ Center for Nonprofits

We were deeply saddened to hear about Jeff’s passing last week. On behalf of the board and staff of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, please accept our sincere condolences.

Jeff’s amazing contributions to our state – from his time at New Brunswick Tomorrow, to taking the helm at the Princeton Area Community Foundation, to his innovative leadership during the pandemic and the creation of the COVID-19 Relief & Recovery Fund – will always be a profound inspiration to us. We are so honored to have had the experience of working with Jeff in establishing the New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund.

We want you to know that all of us here at the Council will never forget his rare talents and genuine passion for helping others. Many people talk about making the world a better place – Jeff had the heart and the grit to go out and do it. What a wonderful legacy.

Elizabeth Mattson, Board Chair; Allison Tratner, Executive Director, NJ State Council on the Arts

Jeff was a wonderful mentor and community-builder.  It was apparent that he loved his career in service to his community.  I am forever grateful that he offered PACF’s resources and infrastructure in support of the New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund to advance our work.  Whether in staff meetings, steering committee meetings, or board meetings, Jeff was warm, generous, gregarious and kind.  He was guided by a strong moral compass and, as he told me in one of our last one-on-one conversations, he “…always tried to do the right thing.”

I will always remember Jeff’s “all-in” spirit and his devotion to the New Jersey Arts & Culture Renewal Fund. 

Lynne Toye, Executive Director, NJ Arts & Culture Renewal Fund

He was a wonderful, man who in his way too short life, has left a legacy of impact that will continue on.

Peg Forrestel, Community Foundation Trustee

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with you all and Jeff’s family during this difficult time. Jeff has done so much for so many and will be dearly missed. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet him personally and may his spirit live on for many generations to come.

Reginald J. Coleman, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Mercer County

I will forever remember Jeff as a visionary leader with a caring spirit always helping those in need. I loved how he always made time to listen and connect with nonprofit leaders on the front lines supporting the community. He has departed way too soon and will be GREATLY missed. Condolences to his family and the PACF family.

Michelle Thompkins, Fund for Women and Girls Leadership Team Member

The board and staff of the Burke Foundation extend their most sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Jeff Vega, especially his beloved wife Angie and son Nico. Jeff committed his life to service and to the community and has set an example for so many of us who have been inspired by his work. Jeff believed deeply in education and helping children and families succeed. His superpower was bringing people together for the benefit of others. His loss will be felt deeply, but we will do all in our power to carry his passion and commitment to the community forward. Thank you for inspiring us all, Jeff.

Atiya Weiss, Community Foundation Trustee; Executive Director, The Burke Foundation

I am so deeply saddened by this. Jeff was an extraordinary human being and visionary, who had a positive impact on so many lives. I will miss him dearly.

Bryan Evans, Senior Vice President, Greater Trenton

Jeff was a fixture in the nonprofit community, a force for good and a friend to many.

Jeff’s work had an incredible impact on the most vulnerable in our community. His leadership at PACF during the pandemic resulted in a significant grant to TASK and The Rescue Mission to open a warming center to ensure that no one was left out in the cold when so many organizations were locked down. Two summers in a row, he reached out to TASK during the hottest of days to ask how PACF might help keep our patrons safe, leading to our most recent conversation about the ways that climate change is impacting those living in poverty. Jeff was always ready to champion and think outside of the box on social justice issues like these that often get overlooked.

On behalf of TASK, our sympathies go out to Jeff’s family, friends and our partners at Princeton Area Community Foundation.

Joyce Campbell, CEO, TASK

A tremendous partner and advocate for children and youth, Jeff was committed to improving the wellbeing of families and communities. His positive impact will be felt for a long time. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and colleagues at the Princeton Area Community Foundation.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey

I am writing to share our sincere sympathies from everyone at SAVE.  Our hearts go out to all of you, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife and son as we keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

Jeff’s dedication to your organization, the communities you serve, and, most importantly, to his family was truly remarkable.   He was a leader in the non-profit community and respected by all who had the opportunity to know and work with him.  Every time I saw him, he drew a crowd with his commanding voice and genuine smile.  His legacy of leadership, compassion, and commitment will undoubtedly be felt for years to come.

May you all find comfort in the memories you shared with Jeff and in the knowledge that his legacy will endure through the continued pursuit of your mission.

Heather L. Achenbach, Executive Director; SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals

The Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber joins the Princeton Area Community Foundation in mourning the loss of former Chamber Board Member Jeff Vega. Jeff’s depth of knowledge and commitment to community were invaluable to the Chamber, particularly as it pertained to management of the Chamber’s Community Development Fund held by PACF. The entire Chamber Board of Directors, Staff and Membership extends our deepest condolences to Jeff’s loved ones. His impact on our community will be felt for generations.

Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce

Great leaders not only exemplify exceptional leadership, but also dedicate themselves to teaching others the art of providing guidance, using wisdom and empathy. True mentors extend beyond the professional realm as they seamlessly blend the roles of a great leader and a true friend. Thank you for your leadership and mentoring, my friend. Truly, Joseph.

Joseph A. Halsey, CEO/Founder, James R. Halsey Foundation of the Arts

Jeff was more than a friend. He was a change agent, trailblazer, and all around tremendous force for good in this world. Jeff’s work on behalf of needy people in New Brunswick and Greater Mercer had profound impact on so, so many people who might otherwise have been overlooked or forgotten. I will never forget Jeff or the impact he’s made on my life and our community. Rest In Peace my friend and may your memory be a blessing to all who loved and admired you.

Elizabeth (Betsy) McNeilly, Former Community Foundation Trustee

We wish to extend our deepest condolences to the friends, colleagues, & family of Jeffrey M. Vega. As CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, he led efforts to support nonprofits & strengthen our communities. Jeff’s work has made a difference in countless lives & he will be deeply missed.

Housing and Community Development Network of NJ

A tremendous loss for NJ. Sorry to hear the news and sending heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and the community foundation team.

Jennifer Morack, Fund for Women and Girls Leadership Team Member

As a long-standing community foundation leader, Jeff was part of the civic fabric of the region. He wove together capable nonprofits and generous donors to advance community priorities and make Princeton better for everyone.  His life of service and purpose has left a lasting imprint on the community he loved.

Kathleen Enright, President & CEO, Council on Foundations

Jeff Vega: A Skilled Leader and Family Man Who Never Forgot His Roots

Jeffrey M. Vega was a skilled leader who excelled at bringing people together. He met with politicians and corporate titans. He met with philanthropic members of the community. He met with teachers working to keep kids in school and nonprofit leaders working on the frontlines to help our most vulnerable residents.

Jeff, who died on Jan. 28, served as President & CEO of the Princeton Area Community Foundation for nine years. But the role he cherished most was that of husband and father.

“He was an engaged husband, and he was so proud of being a father,” said Eleanor Horne, Community Foundation Trustee Emeritus. “He loved his wife, and he just absolutely adored his son. No matter how busy Jeff was at work, he would take time for his family.”

He often talked about the restaurants he and his wife, Angie, visited. He told stories about the family’s backyard barbeques and trips to the beach.

He shared snapshots of the family’s dog, Luna. He described his work (and occasional struggles) tending to his vegetable garden.

He spoke about his son, Nico’s school projects, confirmation classes, and tests for Taekwondo belts. He treasured their walks together to the school bus stop.

“You couldn’t help but smile, watching Jeff light up when talking about Angie and Nico,” said Board Chair Sonia Delgado. “He took a lot of pride and joy in his family, his work and in the foundation. He was a very kind, compassionate person, who was devoted to helping other people and improving their quality of life.”

A graduate of Irvington High School and Rutgers University, Jeff never forgot his roots.

“When there are people in your life who mean a great deal to you, it is easier to transfer those feelings of valuing people to others,” said Eleanor. “Jeff had a tremendous value for people, especially for the people who didn’t have all the advantages of so many in this community.”

New Brunswick Tomorrow – A Model for Community Convening

Before joining the Community Foundation, Jeff spent 22 years at New Brunswick Tomorrow, the last 14 as its president. His work was recognized by community leaders, local employers and elected officials, said Sonia.

At New Brunswick Tomorrow, he was a mentor to Jaymie Santiago, who would eventually succeed him as president of the organization.

“He was one of the best people I knew,” Jaymie said.

Mike Ullmann, a Community Foundation Trustee who recently retired as Executive Vice President, General Counsel of Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, first met Jeff about 14 years ago.

“Jeff had a huge impact on the City of New Brunswick,” said Mike. “When he started there, he was very young, but by the end of his tenure, he was running the organization, and it really was a model for how a community organization could interface with the community, corporations and universities in the area. I think one of his greatest gifts was his ability to convene and work with different types of groups.”

Mike was disappointed when he learned Jeff was leaving New Brunswick.

“Then I found out he was moving to my hometown,” he said. “It was like a mixed blessing. I knew he was going someplace where he’d be just as, if not more, impactful in area that I knew well.”

Leadership at the Community Foundation

Anthony “Skip” Cimino, former Board Chair, said there are CEOs who think they have all the answers, but Jeff was willing to take advice.

“That was an incredible thing about Jeff,” said Skip. “He was well-established in his position but humble enough to want to listen to someone else about advice as to how to approach a problem – that is, in my view, a real mark of leadership.”

He was also willing to take risks.

“Jeff had perspective,’ said Sonia. “He understood the need to try new things, but he also thought carefully about how to try new things. He didn’t mind taking risks, as long as they were measured and productive. But he also knew not to make changes too quickly. He understood that he was at the service of others, so when making those decisions, he took great care.”

A Focus on Community Partnerships

Jeff built on the successful work of his predecessor, Nancy Kieling, Skip said. He helped grow the Community Foundation, forming partnerships with other grantmakers, including the George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation, the Burke Foundation and Janssen.

“He led with intelligence, but he also led with passion,” Skip said.

Jeff saw the opportunity to bring the Community Foundation closer to the community, while continuing to increase its charitable assets, which, under his leadership, grew to more than $250 million.

“Jeff understood the importance of raising money – successful fundraising is part of the heritage of the Community Foundation,” Eleanor said. “But he also understood that raising money must have a purpose. For Jeff the purpose of raising money was to make things possible in the community – to improve the lives of people who live in your community.”

A Focus on Grantmaking

During his tenure, the Community Foundation reached a grantmaking milestone: more than $200 million in funding awarded since 1991, including more than $50 million in the last three years. Jeff also oversaw the creation of the Community Foundation’s signature grantmaking program, All Kids Thrive, a $3 million 5-year partnership between schools and nonprofits to help increase attendance rates.

In the very early days of the pandemic, Jeff recognized that our most vulnerable neighbors would have the greatest needs. He quickly called Skip and asked him to convene a Board meeting to approve the creation of the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund. The donor community gave very generously and over the next two years, the Fund would award more than $3.5 million to over 70 nonprofits.

“He understood he needed to respond quickly, and he knew he had to assemble the right group of people on the grants evaluation team who could support his efforts and exercise leadership,” said Sonia.

During the pandemic, he had the trust of the Board to change the Community Foundation’s grantmaking process to allow funding to be distributed rapidly.

“That says a lot, when in a crisis, you have the board’s confidence to do something different, but he felt resolute that it was exactly the thing to do in that moment in time,” said Sonia.

Inspiring Fellowship

Jeff had a remarkable ability to inspire people. He inspired followership, Mike said.

“People had a lot of confidence in him because he had a vision, but he was also able to execute and implement that vision,” said Mike. “I think one of the tragic elements of his passing at such a young age, is that you could only think about what else he would have accomplished in his career. He could have had another 25 or 30 years ahead of him.”

He dedicated his career to making a positive impact on communities, Mike said.

“He had an impact on specific people, but I think in New Brunswick, and then in the Princeton-Trenton area, he had an impact on those communities as a whole,” said Mike. “He helped make New Brunswick a better place to live and work. I think his efforts in the Trenton area did the same thing. He’s had a positive impact on the schools and the community.”

Jeff was a careful, thoughtful leader, who cared deeply about his team and appreciated their talent, said Sonia.

“Jeff led with his values: grace, kindness, compassion and a devotion to helping to improve the quality of life for others,” Sonia said.  “I am so grateful that I had the privilege to work and learn from him. It is for me a lasting gift.”

He was charismatic, candid and confident. Warm and caring. Intelligent, compelling and persuasive. Honest. Genuine.

“He was a joyful person to be around,” said Skip. “We had a great rapport. I didn’t look at him as just a colleague. I considered him a real friend. I’m going to miss my friend.”

With his booming laugh, Jeff made work fun.

“One of the things I loved about working with him, and I did love working with him, is we could disagree,” said Eleanor. “Before you knew it, we’d reach an agreement that was a little of what I thought and a little of what he thought, but what we came up with was something better than either one of us had come up with on our own. He was one of the best partners you could imagine.”

The Community Foundation Board of Trustees and Staff would like to thank our community for the tremendous outpouring of support. Jeff’s leadership helped make our region a better place. His incredible legacy will continue through our work and his memorial fund in the years to come.