Jose A. Marquez, a name synonymous with relationship-building and a deep understanding of our communities, is closing the door on his chapter at the Inland Empire Community Foundation as he embarks on a well-deserved retirement. But within the walls of our Foundation and across the Inland Empire, his impact will resonate far beyond the end of his tenure.

Inspired by his personal experiences, Jose has worked diligently for over 40 years with nonprofits, donors and philanthropists to bring vital resources to the people who are most in need. Jose and his sisters grew up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood in Santa Monica, raised by their mom who was widowed when Jose was five. A bright student and a talented athlete, Jose found his footing as a leader in the Mexican American Student Association (MASA) and, later, MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán), organizations that seek to promote Chicano unity and empowerment through political action.

Even as a young man, Jose wanted to give back to people in his community. He volunteered with a number of nonprofits, including helping to fill and distribute food boxes for families in need – even as his own family received welfare support. “We were poor, but I didn’t know it, except at Christmas time,” says Jose. “Then we would go to school and see all the other kids with their new bikes, toys and gifts. But our mom always made sure we had a good dinner for Christmas.” He recalls receiving presents at one time as a child, “and those were from the Salvation Army.”

Due to their financial challenges, Jose and his mother lived at different times with his two sisters, who married young, and alternated living between Santa Monica and the Inland Empire. Jose’s first experience of the IE was at 15 living in the barrio of South Ontario. “It was a very different living situation from Santa Monica,” Jose says. “We had never lived in a Latino-only community.” Over the next few years, he attended four different high schools. Unfortunately, Jose’s mother died when he was 19 while he was living with his sister in Chino. Even though he attended a number of different high schools, Jose prevailed through a knack for relationship-building and his own tenacity, avoiding the perils of gangs and territory disputes that came with living in low-income neighborhoods.

Throughout his life, his teachers and counselors saw potential in Jose, even though there were some missteps. While attending Santa Monica High, Jose was expelled for ditching school. “I got bored,” he says, “and I got kicked out for a year and went to work at KFC and as a boxboy at a Lucky’s Market. I didn’t want to do that for long.” He moved to Chino and attended Chino High School where his counselor suggested that instead of finishing high school at 19, he could attend a special initiative at Chaffey College called the NOW (New Opportunities Workshop) Program. The program was created to help low-income, minority students with the potential to advance to higher education by prepping them for community college. Jose took the chance, left high school before graduating, and enrolled at Chaffey College.

At Chaffey, Jose became the Chair of MEChA and led the campaign to elect the first Latino student body president. Because of his work with MEChA at Chaffey, he was approached by Latino recruiters from Cal Poly University, Pomona, with an offer to transfer there, which he accepted. He continued to work with MEChA at Cal Poly. One of his proudest achievements there was bringing all the Latinos at the different schools together – including the schools of architecture, engineering, human services, urban planning, and more – to form a “mesa directive,” or coalition, to address a myriad of needs and issues faced by Latino college students. “I was able to see firsthand that there was strength in unity,” he says.

Jose and his daughter, Jilliana

While at Cal Poly, Jose met his future wife and the love of his life, Victoria Guzman. Jose graduated with a degree in Social Services; Vicky obtained her degree in Foods and Nutrition. She started her career as a diet technician and the two married in 1980. They became the proud parents of their daughter, Jilliana, in 1985.

Soon after graduation, Jose began work as a paralegal with Legal Aid Society of Long Beach, where he set up workshops to help people navigate issues such as Housing, Medi-Cal, Medicare, and Family law. From there he went to work at a Settlement House in San Pedro as a community organizer. Later, when he and Vicky decided to get married, they decided to live in the Inland Empire to be close to Vicky’s family.

Jose’s first job in the IE was with the Inland Counties Health Systems Agency (ICHSA), based in Riverside, whose mission was to improve access to affordable, quality health care for the residents in Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. He was there for 11 years and became the Associate Executive Director. More opportunities for community engagement and nonprofit leadership followed, and Jose went on to serve as the first Executive Director of The Resource Center for Nonprofit Management, Executive Director of the American Heart Association/Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, and Executive Director for the San Bernardino National Forest Association.

Before joining IECF, Jose worked for seven years as a Program Officer for The California Endowment, a $4 billion foundation focused on ensuring access to affordable and available health care. His primary geographic service area was the IE. At the Endowment he managed a portfolio of $10-15 million annually, providing grants to numerous nonprofit organizations. Through these work experiences, Jose traveled the entire IE and was introduced to many of the hardworking nonprofits in the region, especially those in underserved communities.

During his seven years with the Endowment, Jose collaborated on many projects with The Community Foundation’s (TCF, now IECF) president at the time, Sheryl Alexander. Impressed by Jose’s skills and experience, Sheryl offered him a position in 2007 as Director of Development supporting the Vice President in donor outreach, cultivation and major gifts. Jose was one of several staff responsible for building relationships to secure the philanthropic support that fuels our programs. In 2009, Jose received his designation as a Certified Specialist in Planned Giving (CSPG), which equips professionals to advise on charitable giving strategies, estate planning, and program management.

In the immediate years after Jose began his journey at IECF, the global economy was devastated by the 2008 Great Recession, with significant impact to the Inland Empire. The Foundation’s investment portfolio lost 25% of its corpus, and many donors found themselves no longer in a position to give.

Jose and the Foundation’s new CEO utilized their contacts with private foundations and government agencies to secure crucial grant funding. These grants allowed IECF to implement several new and impactful projects including funding for initiatives in capacity building for nonprofits, special reports on the regions non-profit sector, and the Community Indicators Report.

Well-known in the nonprofit community for his leadership abilities, Jose was asked to spearhead the inaugural Give BIG Riverside campaign, securing new funding and a Riverside county contract. The program’s success led to its expansion into San Bernardino County and additional grants for regional nonprofit training.

Over the last 17 years, Jose has held several positions with IECF. In his latest role as Director of Planned Giving, Jose worked side by side with donors who wanted to leave a lasting legacy by including IECF in their estate plans via wills and trusts. Many of these donors will tell you that Jose has become a friend and someone they can trust. His vast knowledge and experience have helped translate their hopes and values into enduring legacies that will continue to support the community long after their time. Just four years after taking on the position, Jose has won the confidence of a long slate of donors whose testamentary gifts will amount to over $57 million. In true form, Jose walks the talk – he, Vicky, and their daughter Jilliana have included IECF in their estate plans as well.

Jose’s journey, fueled by resilience, a desire for social justice, and a core commitment to empowering others, has left an indelible mark. Michelle Decker, President and CEO of IECF, perfectly captures Jose’s essence when she spoke at his recent retirement party: “Jose has done many things, in quiet ways, that have made a big difference in the IE, especially how he’s elevated leaders and given people confidence to do more. The relationships he’s built in support of philanthropy just prove what’s possible in this field, in an authentic way.”

It’s true that Jose has worked hard all these years for the benefit of our communities, but behind the scenes he was also working to provide for Vicky and Jilliana. In 1998, Vicky was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was unable to continue working but stayed home to be present for Jilliana and take care of her own health. After a valiant decades-long battle, Vicky succumbed to the disease in 2023.

Jose’s first plans after retirement include travel. He and Jilliana have two trips planned for this year, including a stop in the Bahamas and one in Rome. Vicky was a devout Catholic, and they hope to honor her life and faith by scattering her ashes at the Vatican. As Jose embarks on his next chapter, he leaves behind a network of empowered individuals, organizations with renewed capacity, and a community forever touched by his resolute dedication. We celebrate his retirement not as an ending, but as a well-deserved pause in a remarkable life journey.

Brie Griset Smith, SVP of Charitable Giving, says, “Thank you, Jose, for your humble leadership, your unwavering commitment, and the countless lives you’ve touched. As you step into this new chapter, may it be filled with joy, purpose, and the same sense of fulfillment that marked your exceptional career.”

We look forward to continuing the incredible work that Jose has launched at IECF. For assistance, please contact our Charitable Giving Team by phone a 951-244-7777 or  email.


Skip to content