Don’t ask Julie Cieloha about her favorite part of working for the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust – that’s like picking a favorite child, she said.
Cieloha is on the verge of leaving her role as Chief Financial Officer at the Trust after 27 years, but she’s not entirely exiting the charitable organization. Her daily duties and CFO job will be taken over by Mike True, formerly the president and CEO of The Historic Trust (which was previously known as the Fort Vancouver National Trust). But she also plans to continue with the organization in a consulting role.
“It is retirement for me, but the Murdock Trust, you don’t really ever retire from that,” Cieloha said. “My husband and I, the next chapter in our lives is in our RV, traveling the United States and Canada, learning about communities and how they work the way they do.”
For her, retirement means she’ll likely be consulting with the Trust from some scenic locations as the couple travels across both countries. Before that journey begins, though, she’ll spend about six months working with True and bringing him up to speed, she said.
“Obviously Mike will have his own ideas,” Cieloha said. “But I hope the Trust will continue to be successful and keep continuing to grow. I think this is all pretty exciting.”
Cieloha started at the Trust after graduating with an accounting degree from Portland State University and working for Deloitte & Touche, a financial consulting firm, for about three years. She and Jim Martin, the outgoing Chief Investment Officer at the Trust, both started consulting with the Trust when they were part of Deloitte & Touche. Martin came to the Trust first as CIO, and soon after he helped bring Cieloha over when a position opened in 1991.
“I did accounting work at the beginning, and then 13 years ago I became CFO, and I’ve been doing that ever since,” she said.
Martin said he feels privileged to have worked with Cieloha for so many years.
“Julie is one of the hardest working, most dedicated people I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” Martin said. “It has been inspiring to see her grow and develop as an outstanding professional throughout her career. Her commitment to excellence is unmatched. The Murdock Trust is fortunate to benefit from her contributions and I consider myself fortunate to have been able to work alongside her throughout this time. Jack (Murdock) would be proud.”
During her time at the Trust, Cieloha has seen quite a lot of change. For one thing, the Trust is a lot bigger than it once was, and there are also a lot more people working to distribute it, Cieloha said.
“Our assets have grown exponentially,” Cieloha said. “I think there were 12 people when I started, now there’s about 26. We’re nearly a billion dollar fund now. That’s amazing. And we’ve also given away almost a billion dollars.”
The Murdock Trust, founded after the death of Tektronix founder Melvin J. “Jack” Murdock in 1971, started with a $90 million donation from his estate. Since then, it has dispersed about $900 million. The Trust works in a wide range of areas, including encouraging scientific research, arts, culture, education, health and human services through nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest.
Cieloha won’t pick any single area of that giving as her favorite, but she said she’s overwhelmingly proud of the work the Trust does working with such a wide variety of grantees on so many projects.
“What really gets me excited every day is the relationships we have with our grantees, our investment managers and our colleagues,” she said. “It’s humbling to see all the work our grantees do.”
Steve Moore, executive director of the Trust, said he’s glad Cieloha will stay on in a part-time role and continue to be part of the Trust’s culture.
“Julie’s contributions to the Murdock Trust and to our broader community are immeasurable,” Moore said. “Julie has worked tirelessly to serve our team and our grantees throughout her tenure and she has given countless hours of her own time to support a number of nonprofit organizations. She exemplifies the best of what the Murdock Trust brings to our region. We are fortunate that she will remain a part of our organization and contribute to new projects in strategic ways while simultaneously providing historical perspective to our finance and accounting operations.”
Cieloha said she’s glad she’ll still be able to help the Trust as she begins her partial retirement.
“I’ve been so grateful for this opportunity,” Cieloha said. “It’s not every day you get to work for an organization like this. It’s a humbling experience. It’s been a gift and I want to thank the trustees and staff for such a great opportunity.”