Former Carnegie Corporation President Alan Pifer Dies At 84


MAY 4, 1921 – OCTOBER 31, 2005

Alan Pifer, past president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, passed away on October 31 at the age of 84. Throughout Pifer's career, his focus was on social justice and strengthening the rights of historically disadvantaged groups, including women.

He was appointed vice president of Carnegie Corporation in 1963 and served as acting president from 1965 to 1967. Pifer formally assumed the presidency in 1967, succeeding John W. Gardner who had left the Corporation to become Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in administration of Lyndon Johnson. As president of Carnegie Corporation, Pifer also oversaw The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which at that time was housed within Carnegie Corporation's offices. Pifer originally joined the staff of Carnegie Corporation in 1953 after having served for five years as executive secretary of the U.S. Educational Commission in the United Kingdom, administering the Fulbright Program of educational exchange between the United States and the United Kingdom. 

Under Pifer's leadership, the Corporation's grantmaking strategies began to center on preventing educational disadvantage, promoting educational opportunity and broadening opportunities in higher education. In addition--and of critical importance--beginning in the 1970s, Pifer was instrumental in reinstituting Carnegie Corporation's involvement in South Africa after a long hiatus and led the foundation in supporting the formation of public interest law projects in South Africa that challenged apartheid policies. These organizations continue to have a lasting impact on South African society. At the University of Cape Town in South Africa in the mid-1970s, the Corporation established the Second Carnegie Inquiry into Poverty and Development in Southern Africa to examine the legacies of apartheid and to make recommendations to nongovernmental organizations that would support the goal of achieving racial and social equality in a democratic society. 

The Corporation was instrumental in supporting a number of new commissions and path-breaking studies during Pifer's tenure. Continuing its long commitment to early childhood education, the foundation supported research and applications of experimental and demonstration programs that later provided evidence of the positive long-term effects of high-quality early education, particularly for disadvantaged students. 

Pifer also led Corporation support for educational children's television and launched the Children's Television Workshop (now the Sesame Workshop), which produced the landmark PBS series Sesame Street. Around the same time, the foundation's combined interest in testing and higher education led to the creation of the College-Level Entrance Examination, a national program that granted college credit through examination. The Corporation also promoted non-traditional off-campus undergraduate degree programs, which resulted in the formation of the Regents Degree of the State of New York and Empire State College, among others.

Recommendations from the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television were adopted in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1968, which established the public broadcasting system. Ten years later the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting, formed in 1977, examined public broadcasting a decade after the creation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting 

A report by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, established in 1967 to investigate how colleges and universities were adapting college-level curricula to an influx of nontraditional students and "baby boomers," led to the formation of the federal Pell grant program that enabled thousands of needy students to attend college. 

Under Pifer's direction, Carnegie Corporation joined with the Ford and Rockefeller foundations and others in supporting educational litigation by civil rights organizations and 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. 

Upon retiring from Carnegie Corporation in 1982, Pifer continued his public service by continuing to focus on social inequality. He headed the Aging Society Project that studied the social consequences that might develop as America's "baby boomer" population reached retirement age. The study's findings and conclusions were published in a book entitled Our Aging Society: Paradox and Promise. The statistical data and conclusions provided the foundation of new research program at the University of Michigan called the new Aging Society Policy Studies Center.

Pifer also established the University of Cape Town Fund, which raised funds in the United States to support black students at the South African university and promote activities to promote the advancement and welfare of blacks. One of the primary funders of the Fund was a consortium of 32 New England colleges and universities that provided 37 full scholarships for black students attending interracial universities in South Africa. 

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Pifer attended Groton School and graduated from Harvard University. He received the Lionel de Jersey Harvard Fellowship at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, for graduate study.

During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army 11th Armored Division, holding the rank of Captain at the time of his discharge in 1946.

Pifer was a founding fellow of the African Studies Association and a member of the Management Committee for the US-South Africa Leader Exchange Program and a trustee of the African American Institute. 

Pifer's public service was substantial. He served as chairman of President-elect Nixon's Task Force on Education, the Mayor's Advisory Committee for the Board of Higher Education of New York City, and the Education Task Force of the New York Urban Coalition. 

He was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, an Overseer of Harvard University, a trustee of the American Ditchley Foundation, a director of the Council on Foundations, and a member of the senior executives council of The Conference Board. 

He was also a member of the Research and Development Center Panel, Cooperative Research Program at what was then the US Office of Education, a member of the Advisory Council of Columbia University's School of Social Work, and a member of the Advisory Committee on Higher Education for the former U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Many other organizations and governmental agencies also benefited from his guidance and his wisdom. Pifer — who is survived by his three sons, Matthew, Nicholas and Daniel — was a leader in philanthropy and the nonprofit world, and his legacy will always be institutional transparency, accountability and the highest ethical standards.