Carnegie Corporation of New York has had 12 presidents since its founding in 1911. To learn more about their leadership, follow links provided in the table below.

1911–1919 Andrew Carnegie
1919–1920 Elihu Root
1920–1921 James R. Angell
1921–1923(acting)Henry S. Pritchett
1923–1941 Frederick P. Keppel
1941–1944 Walter A. Jessup
1945–1948 Devereux C. Josephs
1948–1955 Charles Dollard
1955–1967 John W. Gardner
1967–1982(acting, 1965–1967)Alan Pifer
1982–1997 David A. Hamburg
1997– Vartan Gregorian

 

Frederick P. Keppel

Frederick P. Keppel

Under Frederick P. Keppel, president from 1923 to 1941, Carnegie Corporation of New York shifted from the creation of public libraries to strengthening library infrastructure, services, and training and building the field of adult education, adding arts education to the array of programs in colleges and universities. The Corporation’s grantmaking during this period was marked by a certain eclecticism and a remarkable perseverance in its chosen causes.

Keppel was behind the famous study of race relations in the United States by the Swedish social economist Gunnar Myrdal, deliberately appointing, in 1937, an “outsider” and a non-American to manage the study on the theory that the task should be undertaken by a fresh mind unencumbered by traditional attitudes or earlier conclusions. Widely heralded, Myrdal’s book American Dilemma (1944) had no immediate public policy impact, although it was later heavily cited in legal challenges to segregation. Keppel believed foundations should make the facts available to the public and let them speak for themselves. His cogent writings about philanthropy left a lasting impression on the foundation field and influenced the organization and leadership of many new foundations.

In 1927, Keppel toured sub-Saharan Africa and recommended the first set of grants to establish public schools in East and southern Africa. Other grants were made for municipal library development in South Africa. In 1928, the Corporation launched the Carnegie Commission on the Poor White Problem in South Africa. Better known as the “Carnegie Poor White Study,” it served to promote strategies for improving the position of rural Afrikaner whites. The poverty, oppression, and political exclusion of South African blacks were explicitly addressed in the grant programs and in a second Carnegie inquiry during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Text courtesy Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Charles Dollard

Charles Dollard

World War II and its immediate aftermath were a relatively inactive period for the Corporation. When Charles Dollard, who had joined the staff in 1939 as Keppel’s assistant, became president in 1948, the Corporation deepened its interest in the social sciences, particularly the study of human behavior, and entered the field of international affairs.

At Dollard’s urging, the Corporation heavily supported quantitative, “objective” social science research — modeled after the hard sciences — and helped to diffuse the ideas throughout leading universities. At this time, the Corporation became a leading proponent of standardized testing in the schools as a means for determining academic merit irrespective of social or economic background. Among other initiatives, it helped to broker establishment of the Educational Testing Service, in 1947. In recognition of the United States’ rising need for scholarly and policy expertise in international affairs, the Corporation also launched, with the Ford Foundation, foreign area studies programs in colleges and universities, helping to establish and sustain the Russian Research Center at Harvard University. Following Afrikaner political ascendance in 1951, the Corporation ceased grantmaking in South Africa for more than two decades, turning its attention to the development of universities in East and West Africa

Text courtesy Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

John W. Gardner

John W. Gardner

Under John W. Gardner, who rose from a staff position to the presidency in 1955 — Gardner simultaneously became president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which was housed at the Corporation — the Corporation continued to upgrade scholarly competence in foreign area studies and strengthened its programs in liberal arts education. In the early 1960s, it inaugurated a program on continuing education, also supporting the development of new models for advanced and professional study tailored to the needs of mature women.

Gardner’s interest in leadership development led, in 1964, to creation of the White House Fellows program. Notable among the grant projects to strengthen higher education in sub-Saharan Africa was the 1959–60 Ashby Commission study of Nigeria’s needs for postsecondary education, which had the effect of stimulating widespread aid to African nations’ systems of higher and professional education from the United Kingdom, Europe, and the United States. While Gardner’s strong interest was education, as a psychologist he saw the value of the behavioral sciences in addressing societal and world problems.

At Gardner’s urging, the Corporation supported much of the nation’s basic research on cognition, creativity, and the learning process, particularly among young children, in the process linking the fields of psychology and education. The Corporation’s most important contribution to precollege education reform at this time was a series of studies of education carried out by James B. Conant, former president of Harvard University. In particular, Conant’s study of the comprehensive American high school (1959) resolved a heavily polarized public debate over the purposes of public secondary education, making the case that schools could adequately educate both the academically gifted and the average student.

With Gardner, the Corporation entered the era of strategic philanthropy — the planned, organized, deliberately constructed means to attain stated ends. It no longer sufficed to support a socially desirable project; rather, the knowledge must produce concrete results and be communicated to the public, the media, and decision makers with the intention of fostering policy debate. A central objective was to develop programs that might be implemented and scaled up by larger organizations, especially government. The turn toward “institutional transfer” was partly in response to the relatively diminished power of the Corporation’s resources, making it necessary to achieve “leverage” and “multiplier effects” if it was to have any impact at all. The Corporation saw itself more as a trend-setter in the world of philanthropy, often supporting research or providing seed money for ideas while others financed the more costly operations. As an example, the Corporation advanced the ideas leading to creation of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, later adopted by the federal government. Declaring that a foundation’s most precious asset was its sense of direction, Gardner gathered a competent professional staff of generalists whom he called his “cabinet of strategy,” regarding it as a resource for the Corporation as important as its endowment.

Text courtesy Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Alan Pifer

Alan Pifer

While Gardner’s standpoint on educational equality was to multiply the channels through which the individual could pursue opportunity and excellence, it was under longtime staff member Alan Pifer, who became acting president in 1965 and president in 1967 — again, of both the Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) — that the Corporation began to respond to the claims by historically disadvantaged groups, including women, for equal opportunity and treatment.

The Corporation developed three interlocking objectives: prevention of educational disadvantage; equality of educational opportunity in the schools; and broadened opportunities in higher education. A fourth objective, cutting across these programs, was to improve the democratic performance of government. Grants were made to reform state government as the laboratories of democracy, underwrite voter education drives, and mobilize youth to vote, among other measures. Use of the legal system became a tool for achieving equal opportunity in education, as well as redress of grievance, and the Corporation joined the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, and others, in supporting educational litigation by civil rights organizations. It also launched a multifaceted program to train black lawyers in the South for the practice of public interest law and to increase the legal representation of blacks.

Maintaining its commitment to early childhood education, the Corporation supported the application of research knowledge in experimental and demonstration programs — programs that subsequently provided strong evidence of the positive longterm effects of high-quality early education, particularly for the disadvantaged. An influential study upholding the value of early education was the Perry Preschool Project of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation. Its 1980 report on the progress of 16-year-olds who had been enrolled in the experimental preschool programs was crucial in safeguarding Project Head Start at a time when federal social programs were being scaled back.

During this period, the Corporation also promoted educational children’s television, launching the Children’s Television Workshop, producer of Sesame Street and other noted children’s educational programs. Growing recognition of the power of television as an educator prompted formation of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, whose recommendations were adopted in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1968 establishing the public broadcasting system. Among the many reports on American education financed during this time, including Charles E. Silberman’s acclaimed Crisis in the Classroom (1971), undoubtedly the most controversial was Christopher Jencks’ Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (1973). The timing of this report, which confirmed quantitative research, such as the Coleman Report, showing a weak relationship of public school resources to educational outcomes, corresponded with the Corporation’s burgeoning interest in improving the effectiveness of schools.

Reentering South Africa in the mid-1970s, the Corporation worked through universities to increase the legal representation of blacks and build the practice of public interest law. At the University of Cape Town, it established the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa, this time to examine the legacies of apartheid and make recommendations to nongovernmental organizations for actions commensurate with the long-run goal of achieving a democratic, interracial society.

The influx of nontraditional students and “baby boomers” into higher education prompted formation of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education (1967), supported under the aegis of CFAT. (In 1972, the CFAT became an independent institution after experiencing three decades of restricted control over its own affairs.) In its more than 90 reports, the commission made detailed suggestions for introducing more flexibility into the structure and financing of higher education. One outgrowth of the commission’s work was creation of the federal Pell grants program offering tuition assistance for needy college students.

The Corporation promoted the Doctor of Arts “teaching” degree as well as various off-campus undergraduate degree programs, including the Regents Degree of the State of New York and Empire State College. The Corporation’s combined interest in testing and higher education resulted in establishment of a national system of college credit by examination (College-Level Entrance Examination Program of the College Entrance Examination Board). Building on its past programs to promote the continuing education of women, the Corporation made a series of grants for the advancement of women in academic life. Two other study groups formed to examine critical problems in American life were the Carnegie Council on Children (1972) and the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting (1977), the latter formed almost 10 years after the first commission.

Text courtesy Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

David A. Hamburg

David A. Hamburg

David A. Hamburg, a physician, educator, and scientist with a public health background, took the helm in late 1982 with the intention of mobilizing the best scientific and scholarly talent and thinking around “the prevention of rotten outcomes,” all the way from early childhood to international relations.

The Corporation moved away from higher education, placing priority on the education and healthy development of children and adolescents and the preparation of youth for a scientific and technological, knowledge-driven world. In 1984, the Corporation established the Carnegie Commission on Education and the Economy. Through its major publication, A Nation Prepared (1986), the Corporation reaffirmed the role of the teacher as the “best hope” for ensuring educational excellence in elementary and secondary education. An outgrowth of that report was establishment, a year later, of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, to consider ways of attracting able candidates to the teaching profession and recognizing and retaining them. At the Corporation’s initiative, the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued two groundbreaking reports, Science for All Americans (1989) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy (1993), which recommended a common core of learning in science, mathematics, and technology for all citizens and helped set national standards of achievement in these domains.

An entirely new focus for the Corporation was the danger to world peace posed by the superpower confrontation and weapons of mass destruction. It underwrote scientific study of the feasibility of the proposed federal Strategic Defense Initiative and joined the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in supporting the analytic work of a new generation of arms control and nuclear nonproliferation experts. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Corporation grants helped promote the concept of cooperative security among erstwhile adversaries and projects to build democratic institutions in the former Soviet Union and central Europe. An important undertaking was the Prevention of Proliferation Task Force, coordinated under a grant to the Brookings Institution, which inspired the Nunn-Lugar Amendment to the Soviet Threat Reduction Act of 1991 aimed at dismantling Soviet nuclear weapons and reducing proliferation risks.

The Corporation also addressed the problems of interethnic and regional conflict and supported projects seeking to diminish the risks of a wider war stemming from civil strife. Two Carnegie commissions, one on Reducing the Nuclear Danger (1990), the other on Preventing Deadly Conflict (1994), together addressed the full range of dangers associated with human conflict and the use of weapons of mass destruction. The Corporation’s thrust in Commonwealth Africa, meanwhile, shifted to women’s health and leadership development and the application of science and technology, including new information systems, in fostering research and expertise within indigenous scientific institutions and universities.

Under Hamburg, dissemination achieved even greater primacy in the arsenal of strategic philanthropy. Emphasis was placed on consolidation and diffusion of the best available knowledge from social science and education research and the use of such research in improving social policy and practice. Major partners in these endeavors were leading institutions that had the capability to influence public thought and action. If “change agent” was a key term in Pifer’s time, “linkage” became the byword in Hamburg’s, when the Corporation increasingly used its convening powers to bring together leaders and experts across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries to forge policy consensus and promote collaboration.

Continuing tradition, the Corporation established in its name several other major study groups, often led by the president and managed by a special staff. Three groups covered the educational and developmental needs of children and youth from birth to age 15: the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1986), the Carnegie Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children (1991), and the Carnegie Task Force on Learning in the Primary Grades (1994). Another, the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government (1988), recommended ways that government at all levels could make more effective use of science and technology in their operations and policies. Jointly with the Rockefeller Foundation, the Corporation also financed the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future, whose report, What Matters Most (1996), provided a framework and agenda for teacher education reform across the country. Characteristically, these study groups drew on the knowledge generated by the grant programs and from relevant fields and inspired follow-up grantmaking to implement the recommendations.

Text courtesy Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University