About the Surdna Foundation

Our Mission

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States – communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies and thriving cultures. For five generations, since 1917, the Foundation has been governed largely by descendants of John Andrus and has developed a tradition of innovative service for those in need of help or opportunity.

The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States.

Our History

The Surdna Foundation was founded in 1917 by John Emory Andrus to pursue a range of philanthropic purposes. John Andrus was born in 1841 in Pleasantville, New York, graduated from Wesleyan University, and soon moved from teaching school to pursuing his talents as an investor and a businessman. His primary business, the Arlington Chemical Company, manufactured and distributed typical medicines of the day, and his business interests included large land holdings as far away as Alaska. The son of a Methodist minister, Mr. Andrus was a lay leader of the Methodist Church. In his 60s, he was elected mayor of Yonkers, New York, and then served four terms in the U.S. Congress. A devoted family man, he founded the Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial in 1923, an orphanage that was a tribute to his beloved wife, an orphan herself, at the site of her adoptive family's farm in Westchester County, New York. The orphanage was later joined in 1953 by an adjacent retirement home, the John E. Andrus Memorial. This completed Andrus' expressed wish that his legacy provide communities with "opportunity for youth and rest for old age."

Family stewardship of the Foundation has been informed by Mr. Andrus' values: thrift, practicality, modesty, loyalty, excellence and an appreciation for direct service to those in need. In 1989, the third and fourth generations of the Andrus family added professional staff to broaden the Foundation’s effectiveness. Today the Foundation maintains programs in Sustainable Environments, Strong Local Economies and Thriving Cultures.