Not so many years ago if you had a good idea for strengthening liberal education you could turn to the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, Knight, MacArthur, Pew, Rockefeller and maybe a few other big national foundations. To judge from recent grant making patterns, don’t waste your time with them now. They’ve gone off in other directions – or just bogged down in their bureaucracies. Maybe they do other wonderful things, but not helping liberal education when it really needs help.
I find two more recent entries into higher education grant making equally discouraging – Gates and Lumina. Both seem to be op-down organizations. They know best. If you want to do what they have in mind, maybe they will let you do it, on their terms. But don’t expect them to spend much time listening.
That leaves The Andrew W. Mellon as the one big national foundation with a convincing track record in liberal education.
At a smaller level but, I believe, with a remarkable ability to “do a lot with a little” is the New York based Teagle Foundation. I had great fun there as president and my successor, Rich Morrill, kept the focus on using evidence to improve student learning in the liberal arts and sciences. Teagle has always wanted to listen to the ideas from smart people at less affluent colleges and universities. That’s why it is such good news that the Teagle Foundation has named Judith Shapiro, the former president of Barnard College as its new president.
For more information on Judith and the Teagle Foundation see: