Ploughshares Fund names Dr. Emma Belcher as next Foundation President

June 2, 2020
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Ploughshares Fund names Dr. Emma Belcher as next Foundation President

WASHINGTON, DC – Global security foundation Ploughshares Fund announces today the appointment of Dr. Emma Belcher as its new president. Belcher becomes only the third president in the nearly 40 year history of Ploughshares Fund, following the planned retirement of Joe Cirincione who served in the role since early 2008.

“We are thrilled to welcome Emma Belcher as the new leader of Ploughshares Fund,” said the foundation’s board chair, Terry Gamble Boyer. The Ploughshares Fund Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint Belcher, following an extensive executive search. “Emma has the strategic vision, experience and energy we need to continue the momentum of our mission to confront the existential threat and immorality of nuclear weapons.”

Belcher joins Ploughshares Fund after nearly a decade at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where she led the foundation’s Nuclear Challenges grantmaking program. There, she developed and built the foundation’s Nuclear Challenge Big Bet team – from ideation to planning to management of a nearly $20 million budget.

“I’m honored to serve as Ploughshares Fund’s next president, and to work with its creative and dedicated staff and board members. At a time in which our sense of security is being challenged, working to prevent a nuclear catastrophe – the type of disaster from which we might never recover – couldn’t be more important,” said Belcher, who is a native of Australia and holds a PhD in international relations from Tufts University. “We need to harness powerful ideas that take a fresh look at what we do and how we do it. I’m energized to work with the increasingly diverse expert community and partners from other fields so that together we can imagine the kind of future we want for ourselves, our communities, and future generations.”

Prior to her time at the MacArthur Foundation, Belcher was at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she served as a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow. Belcher completed a fellowship at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. She also served as an advisor in Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national security and international affairs and as a public affairs officer at the Australian embassy in Washington, DC.

In the Spring of 2019, Belcher delivered a moving TED Talk on the importance of confronting, humanizing and ultimately solving the existential threat of nuclear weapons. The video has garnered nearly 1.5 million views.

“We are immensely proud of all that we have accomplished with Ploughshares Fund over the past twelve years. With committed donors, an exemplary board and a dedicated staff, we have built something truly special,” said Cirincione, who retires on June 30, following a storied career spanning four decades in national security and foreign policy.

Cirincione became the second president of Ploughshares Fund, after the passing of Sally Lilienthal, who founded the organization in San Francisco in 1981. 

“We have stayed true to Sally Lilienthal’s vision,” Cirincione continued. “We have grown the foundation into an effective instrument for fundamental change in global nuclear policy. Emma will take us to the next level. With a scholar’s knowledge of nuclear policy, a foundation leader’s understanding of the field and an expansive global network, she is the perfect president to take us into and through the next decade. Sally couldn’t have planned it any better.”

Belcher begins her tenure as president of Ploughshares Fund on September 1, and will be based out of the foundation’s Washington DC office.

ABOUT PLOUGHSHARES FUND: Ploughshares Fund is a global security foundation based in San Francisco, with an office in Washington, DC.  Founded in 1981, Ploughshares Fund supports initiatives to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons. It is the largest US philanthropic organization focused exclusively on nuclear weapons. Visit