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Economy & Business

International Institute of St. Louis CEO Anna Crosslin Will Step Down In 2021

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The International Institute of St. Louis
During her tenure with the organization, CEO and President Anna Crosslin expanded the International Institute from operating out of a two-story house on a $120,000 budget to a cultural and resources hub for immigrants in south St. Louis, with nearly $8 million in assets.

The International Institute of St. Louis has announced that Anna Crosslin, its CEO and president, will retire in March.

During her 42 years leading the nonprofit, Crosslin has transformed the 100-year-old organization into a hub for immigrant and refugee services in the region. Throughout her tenure, she became an authority figure on refugee issues — both in Missouri and nationally.

The International Institute was a shoestring operation when Crosslin started. Part-time staff taught English classes in the attic of an 1800s Victorian mansion in the Central West End. The annual budget was $120,000.

It was the 1970s, and Missouri lacked a formal resettlement program for refugees, Crosslin said. At 28 years old, Crosslin said, she persuaded the Board of Directors to trust her with the International Institute.

“I never supervised someone in my life … but I had a vision and a passion,” she said.

Anna Crosslin
Courtesy of the International Institute
Anna Crosslin led the International Institute for 42 years.

The daughter of a Japanese immigrant, Crosslin had a vision of helping to integrate immigrants into American culture. She said immigrants are vital for economic and cultural advancement.

“The very fact that they bring with them skills and the desire to succeed, and innovation, really contribute to the lifeblood of a region,” she said.

Today, the nonprofit has an annual budget of $7 million and has 80 employees, in addition to about 1,000 volunteers. It has settled thousands of refugees from dozens of countries and integrated immigrants into the community through language, housing and employment services.

In the 1980s, Crosslin led the resettlement of the wave of Vietnamese refugees, and a decade later, she helped settle Bosnian refugees.

Crosslin helped launch several economic initiatives in the region, including the nonprofit’s Community Development Corp., which has launched more than 600 refugee-owned businesses. The St. Louis Regional Chamber estimates the economic impact of those businesses is $180 million.

She also co-founded the annual Festival of Nations, which attracts 100,000 people to Tower Grove Park every year to expose St. Louisans to different cultures.

In 2015, Crosslin was honored as a White House Champion of Change for World Refugee Day. She also serves on the Missouri Commission for Human Rights.

Crosslin is quick to credit the nonprofit’s success to her staff and volunteers.

“While I have been the face of the International Institute in many ways, really it has been a team effort,” she said.

The organization’s board of directors has already started a national search for Crosslin’s replacement.

"No one will be able to replace Anna," board Chair Arindam Kar wrote in a press release. "But the next leader of the International Institute will be well-positioned to take the reins of a strong organization that possesses a passionate, dedicated and mission-driven staff, board and supporters. Together, the organization is prepared to take on the unprecedented political, public health and financial challenges of today, honoring Anna's legacy."

Correction: The International Institute of St. Louis' annual budget is $7 million. A previous version of the article misstated the amount.

Follow Kayla on Twitter: @_kayladrake

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