John Emory Andrus founded the Surdna Foundation in Yonkers, New York, in 1917, to support a range of philanthropic interests. The son of a Methodist minister, John Andrus was born in 1841 in Pleasantville, New York, graduated from Wesleyan University, and was at various times a schoolteacher, manufacturer and distributor of medicine, mayor of Yonkers, and four-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives. His primary business, the Arlington Chemical Company, manufactured and distributed typical medicines of the day. Andrus also had a particular talent for investing in real estate, having acquired significant land holdings, timber properties, and mineral rights in Alaska, California, New Mexico, New Jersey, Florida, and Minnesota.
Andrus and his wife, Julia, had nine children. Following Julia’s death, Andrus established the Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial in 1923, an orphanage that was a tribute to Julia, 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 senior living facility, the John E. Andrus Memorial. This completed Andrus’s 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 Andrus’s values of 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. And in 2004, the family appointed its first nonfamily directors to introduce new insights and expertise, and to add greater diversity.
The Andrus family’s longevity in philanthropy is due in part to a culture—and now an established program—that offers its younger generations an opportunity to develop new skills critical to the management of an established philanthropy. By engaging and cultivating each new generation of philanthropists, the Andrus family is quite deliberate about its efforts to continually re-examine its philanthropic mission. Each successive generation becomes stewards of the family legacy, but that does not imply that they simply inherit or accept and sustain a way of doing things. They are expected to introduce new ideas and experiences to the family’s grant making, and preserve, but refresh and revise, the mission within the context of the time.
In addition to the Surdna Foundation, the Andrus family has long been involved in other philanthropic endeavors, including:
- Andrus Family Fund
The Surdna Foundation’s Board of Directors launched the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) in 2000 to engage more than 400 extended family members between the ages of 25 and 45 in public service and organized philanthropy. While AFF is legally a fund of Surdna, it manages its own grant making program and processes, and has its own mission statement. In 2014, AFF announced a new strategic direction that will allow AFF to make a greater impact in the lives of America’s most vulnerable youth. AFF will continue a “grant plus” approach in which it provides its grantees with connections to people and resources that can build their capacity while advancing their work. AFF’s new mission is to foster just and sustainable change in the United States by supporting organizations that advance social justice and improve outcomes for vulnerable youth. The mission is driven by a vision of a just society in which vulnerable youth have more than one opportunity for a good life.
- Andrus Family Philanthropy Program
The Andrus Family Philanthropy Program was established in 2000 to engage and involve the larger family, in particular its younger generations, in philanthropy and public service. The program includes the Andrus Family Fund, which was established to provide opportunities for younger family members to learn about and participate in organized philanthropy.
- Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation
The Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation was created in 1997 in memory of John E. Andrus and enhances the Andrus family’s longstanding commitment to Westchester County, New York. The foundation is committed to creating good places in which people can grow older while maintaining the maximum possible levels of independence. The Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation is focused on creating aging-friendly neighborhoods and actively engaging older people in their communities. Grant making is targeted primarily to nonprofits in Westchester County, New York, with special attention to the City of Yonkers.
- John E. Andrus Memorial
The John E. Andrus Memorial, also known as Andrus-On-Hudson, is a nurturing, family-focused senior care community fostering dignity, well-being and independence for seniors. Nestled within 26 wooded acres, and located high on a hill overlooking the scenic Hudson River in Hastings-On-Hudson, the facility was built in 1953 at the direction of Helen Andrus Benedict, the youngest child of John E. Andrus, in her capacity as chair of the Surdna Foundation.
- Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial
The Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial—also known as the Andrus Children’s Center—is a private, nonprofit, community agency which nurtures social and emotional well-being in children and their families by delivering a broad range of vital services. And by providing research, training and innovative program models that promote standards of excellence for professional performance in and beyond its Westchester County, New York service community.