He will be responsible for managing the foundation's National Register artist's residence, Discovery Garden and related public programs.
Rawitsch was selected for the position after a national search which yielded more than 50 applicants. The new executive director spent the past six years in USC administration as assistant vice president of advancement.
Previous to that he served in arts-related institutions including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Pasadena Playhouse. He has also consulted for the Getty Trust and taught management courses at Loyola Marymount University.
"Jim's track record includes significant successes in making the arts accessible to very broad audiences," said foundation board president Connie Ransom, noting his role in establishing LACMA's first free membership for children and his work to revitalize and re-open the historic Pasadena Playhouse.
"He brings great affection for mid-20th century art and architecture, and a deep knowledge of Southern California culture and history," Ransom added.
Rawitsch was born and raised in Southern California, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA, with B.A. and M.B.A. degrees.
"I grew up in a mid-century home in Whittier, and first encountered Sam Maloof's furniture in the living room at a friend's house," said Rawitsch from his new office in the historic Maloof compound.
"Sam hadn't yet been recognized as a MacArthur genius or had his work collected by the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Smithsonian, but just sitting in those chairs as a teenager, I knew there was something special about them. Running your hands along the arms of a Maloof creation told you this was no ordinary chair.
But, insists Rawitsch, "the Maloof story is about much more than chairs. It's about an extraordinary life, and about the woodworker whose vision and creativity inspires us still."
The historic Maloof residence and Discovery Garden are open Thursday and Saturday afternoons, from noon to 4 p.m.
Opening March 30, "With Strings Attached," a collaboration with the Folk Music Center Museum in Claremont, explores woodworking craft in more than thirty exquisite stringed musical instruments from around the world, and a selection of Maloof music stands. Live musical performances are also scheduled for five Sunday afternoons during the exhibition, which runs through Oct. 27.