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Celebrating 60 Years

jessie-noyes-portraitAs we celebrate 60 years of caring and giving, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation welcomes you to a special section of our website. Here we hope you will reflect upon the guiding principles that have shaped our foundation and examine the impact of our funding on society.

In the late 1940s, as the world emerged from the nightmare of war, Charles F. Noyes, who was known as the “dean of real estate,” wanted to serve society by creating an institution that promoted equal access to quality education for all. He set his sights on a new foundation guided by human attributes that were as valid and relevant then as they are today. He hoped that those aided by the foundation would share his devotion to the principles which had guided him through his life: fairness, integrity, and hard work.

We look forward to supporting long-term improvements in the quality of life for all by continuing our focus on protecting the environment, promoting sustainable agricultural and a safe and healthy food system, and safeguarding reproductive rights.

The Story Begins

In 1947, Charles F. Noyes established the Foundation in his wife’s name [see the Jessie Smith Noyes profile for more information on this remarkable woman] and for the first 40 years, we provided scholarships and fellowships to thousands of students attending colleges and universities. We did not specify any particular course of study for scholarship recipients, nor did we establish age, grade, geographical or other special restrictions. Instead, our awards were based merely on the amount of assistance needed.

From the start, Mr. Noyes recognized the need to establish economic and social parity for minorities. He decided that one half of scholarships would go to black students. Providing gifted students with access to sound educational opportunities was viewed as the best way to level the playing field.

foundation-buildingIn the early years, scholarship amounts ranged from $150 to $1,400. To finance its work, Mr. Noyes deeded $3 million worth of real estate to the Foundation. The property consisted of whole ownership of a 20-story office building at 16–22 East 34th Street and a 50% stake in a 12-story office building at 346 Broadway.

In our anniversary section, you can read testimonials from people who benefited from the Noyes Foundation’s scholarships. Their statements will give you a sense of the value that society as a whole has gained through their meaningful work.

The Spirit of Giving Continues

In the 60s and 70s, our grantmaking shifted from direct student aid to the funding of higher education institutions with scholarship aid. The next major change came in the mid-80s, when we began to phase our scholarship aid in favor of funding nonprofit organizations in the fields of environment, education, and health. 

Sound Investments to Support the Search for Sound Solutions

In the early 1990s, we decided to broaden our investments while maintaining our mission. We adopted an investment policy that recognizes our fiduciary responsibility to maximize returns and minimize risk, while putting us on a path to advance our mission. We believe that in light of the social, environmental, and economic challenges of our time, fiduciary responsibility in the coming decades will dictate the integration of prudent financial management practices with principles of environmental stewardship, concern for community, and corporate accountability to shareholders and stakeholders alike.

As a result, the three guiding principles of our investment practice are screening, proxy voting, and shareholder engagements.

We rejoice in our first 60 years but recognize that long-term solutions to the social and environmental challenges we face require sustained effort. We are committed to protecting and restoring Earth’s natural systems and promoting a sustainable society by strengthening individuals, institutions, and communities pledged to pursuing these goals.

To see the breadth of our work, please refer to the Foundation’s timeline of key events.