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Cisco philanthropy – Focus on Triangle, technology

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By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Peter Tavernise, former program officer for the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, has been named as the top philanthropy and volunteerism officer in the Southeast for Cisco Systems Inc. in Research Triangle Park.

Tavernise, who left the Reynolds Foundation last year to become a research communications specialist at Research Triangle Institute in RTP, will oversee Cisco’s grants to Triangle-area nonprofits, as well as coordinating and promoting employee volunteerism and technology support for nonprofits.

He will report to Michael Yutrzenka, Cisco’s senior manager for community investment in San Jose, where the company is based.  

Cisco, which employs 3,000 people in RTP, contributed $1 million in the Triangle last year, plus about $2.5 million to support Cisco networking academies at roughly two-dozen area schools.

Cisco’s support throughout the state last year totaled $7 million to $8 million, including support for networking academies at 124 high schools, community colleges and four-year colleges.

Joe Freddoso, Cisco’s external affairs manager, said the company is expanding its staffing in corporate philanthropy. Sheri Whitehead, whose duties had included corporate giving, will focus her attention on internal employee programs and retention.

The company’s largest internal program last year raised $318,000 for the Raleigh-based Food Bank of North Carolina, with roughly 40 volunteers spending 3,500 to 4,000 hours coordinating a series of employee events.

Tavernise, who will focus on community relations and investment oversight, worked at the Reynolds Foundation for two years, focusing on issues involving technology, the environment and migrant workers. He previously was assistant director of corporate and foundation relations at Duke University.    

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