The Surdna Foundation was founded in 1917 by John Emory Andrus to pursue a range of philanthropic purposes. To this day, family stewardship of the Foundation is guided by Andrus’ commitment to serving those in need.
Explore our interactive timeline for important milestones and other background information about the Surdna Foundation, Andrus Family and Andrus Family Programs.
The Surdna Foundation is Established
John Emory Andrus establishes the Surdna Foundation to pursue a range of philanthropic purposes.
Andrus Children's Center is Established
John E. Andrus establishes an orphange in memory of his wife, Julia Dyckman Andrus. The Andrus Children’s Center provides a range of support to children and families of all backgrounds and means.
A Life Ends, A Legacy Begins
John E. Andrus passes away. He is survived by a long line of family members who keep his legacy alive to this day through stewardship of the Foundation.
Andrus-on-Hudson is Established
Acting on a wish that his legacy provide “opportunity for youth and rest for old age,” John E. Andrus’ youngest daughter Helen builds a memorial retirement home on 26 wooded acres of land overlooking the Hudson River.
"Operation Bang-Up" Sets Sail
Amid concerns that the Andrus family was drifting apart, Helen Benedict invites 37 third-generation family members on an eight-day cruise to the Caribbean on the S.S. United States to create greater family cohesion and connections.
Total Grants Reach over $230 Million
The majority of these grants went toward education and medicine, including scholarships, research and direct grants to colleges and universities.
The First Concinnity (Reunion) is Held
The first “Concinnity of Cousins” is held in Arizona, attracting 80 Andrus cousins of the second and third generations. It has since become a tradition and strives to gather the Andrus family every five to ten years.
Surdna Hires First Executive Director
Ed Skloot is hired as Surdna’s first Executive Director. During his 18 years of service, he would increase the Foundation’s endowment, staff, and advance Surdna’s reputation within the philanthropic community.
New Programs Launch and Staff is Professionalized
The third and fourth generations of the Andrus family establish programs addressing the environment and community revitalization and decide to enlarge the professional staff to broaden the Foundation’s effectiveness.
A Presidential Visit
Former President Jimmy Carter visits Surdna’s Comprehensive Community Revitalization Program (CCRP), a community building program in the South Bronx.
Helen Andrus Benedict Foundation is Established
The Foundation was created in memory of John Emory Andrus to enhance the family’s longstanding commitment to Westchester County, New York. It focuses its grantmaking on older citizens living in Westchester, with a focus on Yonkers.
Board Service Becomes More Accessible
The Family Involvement Committee was established to make board service on the Andrus family’s philanthropies accessible to interested and qualified family members.
Original Timber Properties are Sold
John E. Andrus was a believer in hard assets such as oil, timber, real estate, mineral rights, and he even owned a goldmine in Alaska. The last of the original timberland (72,800 acres) was sold in 1999. The sale generated a profit of approximately $30 million, half of which was spent on Surdna’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Two New Family Initiatives
Surdna’s Family Involvement Committee launches the Andrus Family Philanthropy Program (AFPP) as well as the Andrus Family Fund (AFF) to engage younger family members in public service and philanthropy, and hires first executive director to lead AFPP and AFF.
Changes to the Board
The first non-family board member joins Surdna, and board term limits are established for the first time.
Phillip Henderson is Hired as Surdna's President
Endowment Reaches $1 Billion
A New Mission
In an effort to deepen Surdna’s impact, create a sense of common purpose and help build consensus around difficult choices, the Board adopts a new mission statement: “The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States – communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures.”
The Andrus Family Fund Hires Leticia Peguero as Executive Director
A Focus on Social Justice
Surdna seeks to create more strategic alignment between its work and core, underlying values. The Foundation determines that the concept of social justice holds its principles together with coherence and clarity and articulates a commitment to supporting just and sustainable communities through systemic change.
Board Retreat to Consider Mission Related Investments
The Board develops a plan for exploring the potential of making Mission-Related Investments and applying a variety of other, robust impact investing strategies across the Foundation’s endowment in service of its mission.
Program Related Investment (PRI) Portfolio Launches
Using loans and equity investments, Surdna’s PRI portfolio aims to test innovative approaches that spark and scale social change.
The Andrus Family Fund Is Reorganized
A strategic reorganization changes the content of the Andrus Family Fund’s work and develops content for the Andrus Youth Service Program (AYSP), a program for Andrus family members and family members of Surdna Foundation staff between the ages of 14 and 18, and the Board Experiential Training (BETs), a program for Andrus family members between the ages of 18 and 24.
The Surdna Foundation Turns 100
Surdna kicks off its Centennial year with three special grantmaking initiatives, three commissioned reports, and special events for the Andrus family and friends of the Foundation.
Mission Related Investing Launches
Surdna designates $100 million of its endowment to impact investing to further advance its social justice mission and grow the field. The commitment focuses on a variety of impact investing strategies, including mission- and program-related investments.
Don Chen is hired as Surdna's Third President
Surdna Announces New Program Strategies and Website
The Foundation reflects on the effectiveness of its work over the past decade and refines its grantmaking strategies to be clear about the outcomes it seeks to achieve, center racial justice at the heart of social justice, and chart its path forward for the next several years. The Strong Local Economies program is renamed Inclusive Economies, and all three programs streamline their strategic focus.
Additional $36 Million for Racial Justice
Surdna steps up its grantmaking by approximately 29% through 2023 to meet the urgent needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities amid the pandemic and champion powerful solutions to systemic racism.