One hundred years ago, John Emory Andrus created the Surdna Foundation. He believed that it was every individual’s responsibility to make a meaningful contribution to society and it was imperative to assist those that lacked access to equal opportunities. For five successive generations, Andrus family members have carried forward his legacy, steadfastly committed to his principles. In this centennial year, we will honor his values of humility, inclusion, social justice and sustainability. We will celebrate his commitment to family and passion for philanthropy. We will tell the Foundation’s story and share what we have learned. And, we will make timely investments in our fields to meet today’s social and environmental challenges.
Our story begins with our mission. Today, the Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. This mission is rooted in our history and reflects our founder’s values. From our history, as written in The Multimillionaire Straphanger: A Life of John Emory Andrus, we learn that, “in the beginning, the Foundation supported hospitals, churches, colleges, arts institutions and other associations for the betterment of mankind.” While our approach to grantmaking has evolved, our overall objective remains the same as it was 100 years ago.
The Foundation’s legacy extends beyond its grantmaking. The 1920s saw the founding of the Julia Dyckman Andrus Children’s Home, and in the 1950s, a sister institution for the elderly, the John E. Andrus Memorial – institutions the Foundation still supports today. In more recent decades, the Foundation expanded program areas, added professional staff and community board members, and developed an identity and method of grantmaking that is core to our work.
Family engagement has been a hallmark of our history. The Foundation has robust family engagement programs, including the Andrus Family Fund and the Andrus Youth Philanthropy Program, which have sparked innovation at Surdna and have been an important entry point for family members to engage in philanthropy and board service at an early age. (Click here to learn more about the Andrus Family Fund.) Today more than 30 family members, many fifth and sixth generation descendants of John Emory Andrus, serve on the boards of the Andrus family charitable institutions. The Surdna Foundation, which provides philanthropic support throughout the United States, is among the oldest family foundations in the country. This serves as a great source of family pride and carries forth the altruism of John Emory Andrus.
As we enter our one-hundredth year, our relevance as a family foundation and our mission are as important today as they were in 1917. We will hold steadfast to our founder’s values and work to create the structural changes needed to eliminate the barriers to equity and full inclusion. This year we will undertake special grantmaking initiatives – Centennial Grants – in support of family philanthropy, impact investing, and smart and inclusive community and economic development. These areas of focus are core to who we are at Surdna and they reflect what we have learned and where we are going as a Foundation. In our centennial year, we will also share our learning around the importance of social justice philanthropy, our decision to engage in impact investing, and offer a comparative look at multi-generational peer family foundations with the help of the Center for Effective Philanthropy.
Most importantly, we want to thank our partners in this journey. From the extraordinary leadership of our former trustees and staff, to all of our grantees, our family, and our founder, many remarkable people have contributed to the Foundation’s story. We look forward to sharing our centennial with you and to making a meaningful impact for years to come in the communities we serve.
Peter Benedict, II