Carnegie Corporation of New York: Historical Note

Carnegie Corporation of New York, which was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 "to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding," is one of the oldest, largest and most influential of American foundations. Some notable contributions of Carnegie Corporation include:

  • expansion of higher education and adult education
  • advancement of research on learning and cognitive development in early childhood
  • promotion of educational and public interest broadcasting
  • advancement of minorities and women in precollege and higher education
  • heightening public understanding of the education and health needs of children and adolescents
  • investigation of risks of superpower confrontation, nuclear war, and ethnic and civil strife

Carnegie Corporation has helped establish or endowed a variety of institutions, including the Carnegie libraries, the National Research Council, the Russian Research Center at Harvard, and the Children's Television Workshop, and for many years heavily supported Carnegie's other philanthropic organizations, especially Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT), and the Carnegie Institution of Washington (CIW). It has funded the writing of books and studies, as well as the organization of conferences and international exchanges, radio shows, legal proceedings and other activities. Through its activities, the Corporation has had a great impact on the information and knowledge available to citizens and government alike. Its work and that of its grantees has exerted a substantial influence on public discourse and policy. The following individuals have served as presidents of Carnegie Corporation (follow the links for more information regarding the Corporation’s activity under their direction):

Founding and Early Years


By 1911 Andrew Carnegie had endowed five organizations in the United States and three in the United Kingdom, and had given away over $43 million for public library buildings and close to $110 million for other purposes. Nevertheless, ten years after the sale of the Carnegie Steel Company, he still had more than $150 million and, at the age of 76, was tiring of the burden of philanthropic decision making. On the advice of Elihu Root, a long-time friend, he decided to establish a trust to which he could transfer the bulk of his remaining fortune and, ultimately, the responsibility for distributing his wealth after his lifetime. Having already used the conventional labels for his previously endowed institutions, he selected "corporation" for this last and largest. It was chartered by the State of New York as Carnegie Corporation of New York. The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated as a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $1.55 billion on March 31, 1999.

During 1911 and 1912, Carnegie gave the Corporation $125 million, making it the largest single philanthropic trust ever established up to that time. As the residual legatee under his will, the Corporation received an additional $10 million when the estate was settled. Carnegie earmarked a portion of the endowment to be used for philanthropic purposes in Canada and what were then the British Colonies. This part of the endowment was first known as the Special Fund, then the British Dominions and Colonies Fund, and later the Commonwealth Program. Charter amendments have allowed the Corporation to use 7.4 percent of its income in countries that are or have been members of the British Commonwealth.

In the Corporation's early years, Carnegie himself was president and a trustee. James Bertram, his private secretary, and Robert A. Franks, his financial agent, were also trustees and, respectively, secretary and treasurer of the Corporation. These three comprised the first executive committee and made most of the funding decisions. The other seats on the board were held ex-officio by the presidents of the five previously established Carnegie organizations in the United States-Carnegie Institute (of Pittsburgh) (1896), CIW (1902), Carnegie Hero Fund Commission (1904), CFAT (1905), and CEIP (1910). Shortly after Carnegie's death in 1919, the trustees elected a full-time, salaried president as chief executive officer of the Corporation and made him an ex-officio member of the board.

Initially, grants followed the pattern of Carnegie's personal philanthropies. Until 1917, gifts for the construction of public libraries and for the purchase of church organs were continued. The other Carnegie organizations in the United States also received substantial grants for their programs, as did universities, colleges, schools, and general educational agencies. In his letter of gift to his original trustees, Carnegie wrote (employing the simplified spelling he favored): "Conditions upon erth inevitably change; hence, no wise man will bind Trustees forever to certain paths, causes or institutions. I disclaim any intention of doing so. On the contrary, I giv my Trustees full authority to change policy or causes hitherto aided, from time to time, when this, in their opinion, has become necessary or desirable. They shall best conform to my wishes by using their own judgement." Thus, over the years, the Corporation's priorities for grant making have changed, while always remaining broadly educational.

Following Carnegie's death, the Corporation began to align its programs with the more scientific assumptions that were coming to dominate social initiatives in the early part of this century. Convinced of the nation's need to increase scientific expertise and "scientific management," the Corporation sought to build centers of excellence in the natural and social sciences. Large grants were made to the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Food Research Institute at Stanford University, and the Brookings Institution. At this time, the Corporation also developed an interest in adult education and lifelong learning as a logical sequel to Carnegie's preoccupation with libraries as "the university of the people." In 1919 it initiated the vast Americanization Study to explore educational opportunities for adults, primarily new immigrants.

Frederick M. Keppel


Under Frederick M. Keppel, president from 1923 to 1941, Carnegie Corporation 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 foundation'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.

Charles Dollard


World War II and its immediate aftermath were a relatively inactive period for Carnegie Corporation. When Charles Dollard, who had joined the staff in 1939 as Keppel's assistant, became president in 1948, the foundation 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.

John W. Gardner


Under John W. Gardner, who rose from a staff position to the presidency in 1955 (Gardner simultaneously became president of the CFAT, which was housed at the Corporation), Carnegie Corporation continued to upgrade scholarly competence in foreign area studies and strengthened its programs in liberal arts education. In the early 1960s, the Corporation 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 to creation of the White House Fellows program in 1964. 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 his 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, Carnegie 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 trendsetter 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.

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 long-time staff member Alan Pifer, who became acting president in 1965 and president in 1967 (again of both Carnegie Corporation and the CFAT), that the foundation 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 long-term 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 sixteen-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. The foundation 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 (e.g, the Coleman Report) showing a weak relationship of public school resources to educational outcomes, corresponded with the foundation'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 the CFAT. (In 1972, the CFAT became an independent institution after experiencing three decades of restricted control over its own affairs.). In its more than ninety 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 foundation'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 foundation 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 ten years after the first commission.

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 foundation 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. The foundation 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. More recently, the Corporation has 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 commmissions, 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 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 foundation 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 fifteen: 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 followup grantmaking to implement the recommendations.

Vartan Gregorian


Under Vartan Gregorian the Corporation underwent a review of its management structure and grants programs, hoping to forge new program directions while maintaining a continuity with the Corporation's past endeavors. In 1998 the Corporation established four primary program headings: Education, International Peace and Security, International Development, and Democracy. Special Projects acted as a vehicle for making grants outside the regular program areas and for encouraging cross-program collaboration. Within and across the four main areas, the Corporation continued to engage with major issues confronting higher education. Domestically, the Corporation focused on the reform of teacher education and examining the current status and future of liberal arts education in the United States. Abroad, the Corporation sought to devise methods for strengthening higher education and public libraries in Commonwealth Africa. As a cross-program initiative, and in cooperation with other foundations and organizations, the Corporation instituted a scholars program, offering support to individual scholars, particularly in the social sciences and humanities, in the independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Dame Louise Richardson DBE

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Dame Louise Richardson DBE is president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, the philanthropic foundation established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911. Previously, she served as vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford and of the University of St. Andrews, and as executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

A native of Ireland, she studied history in Trinity College Dublin before gaining her PhD at Harvard University, where she spent 20 years on the faculty of the Department of Government, teaching courses on international security and foreign policy. She currently sits on numerous advisory boards, while serving as a trustee of, among others, the Booker Prize Foundation and the Sutton Trust. Richardson is also a member of the selection committee of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity. In 2023, the Irish government asked Richardson to serve as the independent chair of its Consultative Forum on International Security Policy.

A political scientist by training, Richardson is recognized internationally as an expert on terrorism and counterterrorism. Today considered a seminal work in the field, her groundbreaking study, What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat (2006), was hailed by the New York Times Book Review as an “overdue and essential primer on terrorism and how to tackle it … the book many have been waiting for.” Other publications include Democracy and Counterterrorism: Lessons from the Past (2007), The Roots of Terrorism (2006), and When Allies Differ: Anglo-American Relations during the Suez and Falklands Crises (1996). She has written numerous articles on international terrorism, British foreign and defense policy, security institutions, and international relations; lectured to public, professional, media, and education groups; and served on editorial boards for several journals and presses.

Richardson’s many awards have recognized the excellence of her teaching and scholarship, including the Centennial Medal bestowed on her in 2013 by Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences for “having the vision to assess emerging threats, for transformative leadership, and for moving seamlessly between the roles of scholar and teacher.” She has been awarded nine honorary doctorates, including from the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews in Scotland; Trinity College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast in Ireland; the University of Notre Dame in the U.S.; the University of the West Indies; Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel; and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) in Russia. Richardson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Academy of Social Sciences in the United Kingdom, as well as an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

In June 2022, Richardson was appointed a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in recognition of her services to higher education.

Information drawn from:

  1. The Carnegie Trusts and Institutions (NY: CCNY, [1981]) edited by Sara L. Engelhardt
  2. "New Directions for Carnegie Corporation of New York: a report to the board by Vartan Gregorian, President" (February 2, 1999) (online)
  3. "Program Guidelines 2000-2001" (
  4. Lagemann, Ellen C. The Politics of Knowledge. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989