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David O. Egner has been named president and CEO of the Metro Detroit-based Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Egner, who has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, has served as president and CEO of the Detroit-based Hudson-Webber Foundation since 1997.

Since 2009, Egner has also served as the executive director of the New Economy Initiative, a $135 million collaborative that aims to drive economic growth through entrepreneurship and small business development in southeast Michigan.

Egner, 53, will guide the foundation as it distributes $1.2 billion to eligible nonprofits over the next 20 years,Mary M. Wilson, wife of Ralph C. Wilson Jr., said on Thursday.

“We feel he is the perfect person from the job,” Wilson said Thursday by phone from Texas. “He has the experience. He’s worked with small foundations and collaborated to create a bigger one.”

“NEI is talked about across the country. He was the one that was the anchor there and brought everyone on the same page. He did it masterfully.”

Ralph Wilson, a native Detroiter who was 95 when he died in 2014, founded the Buffalo Bills football team in 1959. His estate sold the franchise in 2014 for $1.4 billion. He also owned manufacturing, mining, insurance and other businesses.

Ralph Wilson directed the foundation to spend all its money over the next 20 years. Grant making will focus on healthy lifestyles, early childhood and youth development, caregivers, community development and economic growth.

“Ralph has entrusted us with his tremendous legacy. It took a careful and thorough search to find the individual who is capable and committed to lead the Foundation in Ralph’s vision. We found that leader in David Egner,” Wilson said. “David’s past experiences, his passion for our mission and his own personal values give us confidence that we are selecting someone with Ralph’s stamp of approval.”

Under Egner’s direction, the foundation will begin establishing official guidelines for formal, long-term grant cycles beginning in 2016, Wilson said.

For 2015, the foundation developed a transition program to award and fund $60 million in grants in southeastern Michigan and western New York.

Egner said in a statement he is honored to have been selected by the trustees to lead the private foundation, headquartered in Grosse Pointe Farms.

“It is a privilege to represent the Foundation and the legacy of Ralph Wilson, a man known for his extraordinary generosity, visionary leadership and strong Midwestern values,” Egner said.

“I am excited about the opportunity to work with community leaders in Western New York, and I am looking forward to continuing to work in Southeast Michigan, a community I have served for more than 20 years,” he said.

At Hudson-Webber Foundation, Egner was responsible for managing all aspects of the $175 million foundation, including developing and implementing grants in economic development, revitalization and the arts for the city of Detroit.

Jennifer Hudson Parke, chair of the Hudson-Webber Foundation Board of Trustees said Egner has led the Hudson-Webber Foundation Board and staff with great enthusiasm during his 19-year tenure.

“Dave’s vision has inspired the missions of the Foundation and has served as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration and change in the metropolitan Detroit community. We wish Dave much future success in his new role,” she said.

Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, said Egner brings experience, interest in listening and learning, creativity and appreciation of the value of communities to his new post.

“The success and impact of the New Economy Initiative on the Southeast Michigan region is a testament to his leadership, and it is his leadership that will help The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation trustees elevate the organization to its namesake’s vision,” Noland said.

Egner started with Junior Achievement, eventually serving as director of operations for the organization’s Mid-America Operations. He joined the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and later served as president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association.

The foundation conducted a national search overseen by Koya Leadership Partners.

Clotilde Dedecker, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, a foundation partner, said she is delighted to hear that Egner has been selected to fulfill the role.

“We look forward to partnering with him in Western New York,” Dedecker said.

JChambers@detroitnews.com

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