USJC Names Audrey Yamamoto to Succeed CEO Suzanne Basalla

The U.S.-Japan Council (USJC) Board of Directors has selected Audrey Yamamoto to be the Council’s next president and chief executive officer. Currently chief operating officer at The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), Ms. Yamamoto will succeed President and CEO Suzanne Basalla at the end of March. Ms. Yamamoto will lead USJC’s staff in the U.S. and Japan, and work closely with the Council’s boards in both countries in carrying out the Council’s mission of developing and connecting diverse leaders to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

Ms. Yamamoto, a fourth-generation Japanese American, was a member of the 2023 class of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD), a program sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and organized by USJC. Prior to joining TAAF, which is working to increase investment in the Asian American and Pacific Island community by addressing the root causes of hate and discrimination, she was president and executive director at the Asian Pacific Fund and executive director of the Children’s Creativity Museum, both in the San Francisco Bay Area. Please click here for her bio.

“Audrey brings more than 20 years of leading nonprofits in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors where she has consistently helped organizations maximize their impact and increase their fundraising capacity while building a collaborative, team-oriented culture,” said USJC Board Co-Chair Kathy Matsui. “As only the third president in the Council’s history, we believe her ability to optimize networks while drawing upon the richness of the Japanese American experience will contribute to meaningful new connections across sectors, generations and geographic regions. We look forward to her leadership in executing our strategies for greater growth and even more engagement among our members and other stakeholders.”

“It is the honor of a lifetime to build on the legacies of Founding President Irene Hirano Inouye and President and CEO Basalla,” said Ms. Yamamoto. “Being a part of USJC has been transformative for me, and I feel a deep personal connection to the mission. I am excited by its tremendous potential and look forward to helping the organization achieve its next phase of growth and impact.”

The Board of Directors’ selection of Ms. Yamamoto concludes a search that began last November after President Basalla announced her intention to join Geodesic Capital, which invests in future-driven, globally minded companies and helps them succeed in the Japanese and other Asian markets.

Board Co-Chair Susan Morita applauded Ms. Basalla’s contributions to USJC. “As a respected leader in our community, Suzanne was named president and CEO just as the pandemic was unfolding and within weeks of the passing of President Irene Hirano Inouye. A former COO at the Council, she expertly addressed USJC’s unprecedented challenges, including finding innovative ways for the Council to offer our programs in a changed paradigm. We are also grateful for her vision over the past four years in strengthening the Council’s financial processes as well as in embracing partnerships and ideas that have refreshed the organization, fueled membership engagement, and provided USJC with new resources.” Among President Basalla’s achievements are: 

  • Convening numerous high-profile events, including three virtual Bilateral Boardrooms featuring top U.S. and Japanese government and business leaders, and in-person Annual Conferences, in Tokyo just two weeks after Japan re-opened to visitors in October 2022, and last November in Washington, DC.
  • Launching the Climate & Sustainability Initiative, supported by founding strategic partner Amazon, offering unique cross-sector activities to advance bilateral climate and energy collaboration.
  • Elevating programming for the next generation, including launching a second Toshizo Watanabe-endowed program for the TOMODACHI Initiative, a partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
  • Empowering alumni of the Emerging Leaders Program throughout the Council with events such as the ELP 50 and U40 Summit.
  • Engaging the membership, which has grown to more than 900 members in the U.S. and Japan, with affinity groups, more region-led activities, and programs such as the Advanced Leadership Collective to bridge the gap between younger and mid-career professionals.
  • Working closely with the Government of Japan, including on the annual meeting of the Ambassador, Consuls General and Japanese American Leaders; the Japanese American Leadership Delegation; and efforts to support Maui’s long-term recovery from wildfires last August.
  • Developing a new, multi-year strategic plan with the Board of Directors to guide the Council’s growth and its continuing leadership role in the U.S.-Japan relationship.

President Basalla is credited as well with partnering with Irene Hirano Inouye to help launch the TOMODACHI Initiative in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. At the time of the earthquake, Ms. Basalla was senior advisor to then-U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos.


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