The Pforzheimer Family and Fellowship Program: A Legacy of Service

Seldom has one family been as strong a force for democracy across three generations as the Pforzheimer family of New York. A long-time supporter of the League, the Pforzheimer family continues to support our work through a Fellows program for college students.

Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. served on the League’s board of directors for many years, including four years as its president, from 1975-78. Carl was the largest benefactor of the League’s endowment, which is now named for the family. He also served for 20 years on the New York State Board of Regents and as a board member of the New York Public Library, and the Economic Development Corporation of New York City.

In addition to funding the League’s endowment, the family’s foundation has also funded the Pforzheimer Fellows Program, operated by the National Civic League to provide mini grants to students conducting research or developing solutions to civic challenges. The League has worked primarily with the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and University of Colorado-Denver, though students from other colleges and universities are eligible as well. To apply for this year’s program, click here.

Some of the projects led by Pforzheimer Fellows in recent years are:

  • A Harvard student used the fellowship to explore the distinction between election fraud and voter fraud and investigate whether the tools that states put in place to uphold election integrity are actually effective at achieving these goals.
  • A PhD student from the University of Colorado Denver studied the relationship between community engagement and outcomes like increased health equity, improved access to care, and improvements to social determinants of health by researching the Accountable Communities for Health program, community-based partnerships that bring together cross-sector organizations and community members to transform health systems.
  • Concerned about the lack of opportunities for young people to make a difference, another Harvard student worked to develop “issue-centered, part-time, service-based civic leadership pathways that empower young adults with the knowledge, empathy, and influence to drive real systemic change.”

The last project listed above evolved into a nonprofit organization. After working in the Chicago Mayor’s Office, Jerren Chang enrolled in Harvard’s School of Government, conducting research and starting a nonprofit called GenUnity, an “equitable pipeline of aspiring leaders to build the capacity to affect change.”

This year’s Fellows program is being held courtesy of Carl H. Pforzheimer III, who has maintained funding for the Fellows program since his father passed in 1996, and now oversees the family’s Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, which was endowed by Carl H. Pforzheimer Sr. in 1942. Carl Sr., a banker, had endowed the Foundation as a way of giving back to the community, giving primarily to support higher and secondary education, libraries, cultural programs, public administration and healthcare. Carl Sr. was a collector of rare books and served on the board of the New York Public Library.

In addition to leading the foundation, Carl H. Pforzheimer III is continuing his family’s tradition of community service. He has chaired the boards of the National Humanities Center, Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Pace University, Horace Mann-Barnard School, and Urban Glass, and was president of the Scarsdale Public Schools. A life trustee and past member of the Executive Committee of The New York Public Library, he was also elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2002, he is also a member of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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