The St. Paul-based Wilder Foundation broke new ground by choosing a Hmong woman as just its sixth president in 104 years.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

MayKao Hang

MayKao Hang, a St. Paul human services manager and Hmong refugee, has been named president and CEO of the Wilder Foundation.

Hang, who currently directs the foundation's family and children services, will oversee a staff of 450 and an annual budget of $61.7 million.

She will become just the sixth president of the foundation in its 104 years, replacing Tom Kingston, who is retiring.

"The Wilder board of directors, in making a decision to hire someone like me, is signaling to the community that Wilder is responding to changing demographics in the community," said Hang, 37, who immigrated from Laos when she was 4.

Teri Davids, spokesperson for the St. Paul-based foundation, said Hang's appointment is historic. "She's the first woman and the first person of color in our history," Davids said.

The foundation's board unanimously selected Hang and announced her appointment Thursday. "We believe Wilder, as well as the community, will benefit greatly from Ms. Hang's experience, creativity and passion for service," board chair Sandy Kiernat said.

Before joining the Wilder Foundation in 2007, Hang was director of adult services for Ramsey County Human Services and director of resident services for the St. Paul Public Housing Agency.

She has a M.A. in public affairs from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs and is a candidate for a doctorate in public administration from Hamline University.

Hang grew up in St. Paul and lives in Woodbury with her husband, Lou, and four children. She will assume her new role July 1.

Hang said she plans to continue the direction of the foundation, focusing on services for children, families and the elderly and on community research and leadership. But she hopes to inject some new ideas.

"We're moving into difficult and challenging times in serving vulnerable people in our community," Hang said. "There has to be new and unimagined solutions to problems of human services today."

The Wilder Foundation is the largest operating foundation in the east metro area. It supports health and human services for vulnerable residents, research and community development.


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