Letter from the President

Fall 2023

Drawing on Tradition, with a focus on the future: 45 years of ‘betting on people’ through Revson Fellowships

“Betting on people”—their capacity to innovate, create positive social change, and advance knowledge for the public good—has always been a core element of the Revson Foundation’s DNA. From its establishment in 1976 to the present day, the Foundation has dedicated over 30 percent of its annual grant making to scholarship and fellowship programs across all four program areas, many of them named for our benefactor, Charles H. Revson. Inspired by Mr. Revson’s passion for innovation, eye for talent, and belief in human capacity for improvement, fellowships have focused primarily on young people at the cusp of their careers, including those pursuing graduate and law degrees, scholars, scientists, artists, and community activists whose talents, tenacious drive, and desire to excel in their chosen fields are matched by their commitment to improving societal health and wellbeing.

Establishing the ‘template’ for Revson Fellowships

In a retrospective look at the Foundation’s first 20 years, its founding President, Eli Evans Z’L, noted that,

“Investing in individuals requires faith: You can only help a limited number of people, and you may not be able to tell for decades whether the investment has paid off.”

Eli and his longtime colleague and Revson’s second President, Lisa Goldberg Z’L, exercised not only faith, but imagination, flexibility, patience and prescience in providing a lasting framework for Revson’s fellowship programs. They identified emerging fields of inquiry and societal challenges that required fresh thinking and expertise. They pinpointed gaps in the talent pipeline and partnered with institutions to craft fellowships that would generate reservoirs of ingenuity and expertise well suited to leading positive social change, advancing knowledge, and expanding the influence of more diverse voices and perspectives.

Several formative fellowship programs laid the foundation for and exemplify Revson’s commitment to ‘betting on people’. In 1978, Revson partnered with Columbia University to establish the Charles H. Revson Fellows on the Future of the City of New York, enabling almost 300 mid-career professionals to design their own course of study, learn from each other and become exposed to a wide range of civic leaders and pressing issues. Revson Fellows represented a wide range of experience-from community activists, journalists, police officers, firefighters and other public servants, lawyers, teachers and health care professionals, all bound by their dedication to making New York a better place for all.

In 1979, with the goal of building a talent pipeline for the then fledgling field of public interest law, the Foundation initiated the Charles H. Revson Law Student Public Interest Fellowship, enabling over 1,500 law students from 18 NY metro law schools to be introduced to public interest law at legal, nonprofit and government agencies. Fellowships designed to broaden the involvement and leadership of women in public life included a partnership with Georgetown University Law Center and the Center for Women in Government at the State University of New York.

The Foundation also played a formative role in building the academic field of Jewish Studies through supporting over 100 hundred young scholars under the Revson Fellowships in doctoral program at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Revson Fellowships at NYC arts organizations helped more than 100 young artists in the visual and performing arts make the transition from students to working artists.

Biomedical Research Fellowships-past and present

The Charles H. Revson Senior Fellowship in Biomedical Science, established 1981 to support post graduate researchers at NYC-based research institutions, continues to this day. In 2005, the program was restructured to focus on young scientists conducting basic research during their third and fourth year of postdoctoral training, when scientific breakthroughs are more likely to occur and where funding from other sources are most limited. Since 2010, the program has been further enhanced through the establishment of an annual meeting and dinner of current fellows, alumni and mentors that includes presentations and poster sessions, and participation from world renown senior scientists who serve as keynote speakers and discussants.

When a review of the program in 2015 exposed special challenges for women in postdoctoral training, the Foundation created a dependent care travel fund to allow fellows more flexibility to travel to conferences, interviews and other networking opportunities that are essential for career advancement. Since 2005, Revson has supported 113 postdoctoral fellows across thirteen NY metropolitan area research institutions. 80% of the fellows have gone on to academic appointments and almost 20% are contributing to scientific inquiry in private industry.

The Foundation also has a long history of supporting promising young scientists conducting biomedical research in Israel. During the 1980’s when Israeli research institutions were facing major financial challenges, appointments as Revson Fellows at the Weizmann Institute and Hebrew University to put 70 young scientists on track for permanent positions.

And although Israel is now recognized as a world leader in scientific research, the career trajectories of young women scientists were lagging far behind in the ranks of the country’s top scientists. In 2009, Revson partnered with the Weizmann Institute to fund the Postdoctoral Advancing Women in Science program, the first of its kind in the world, which provides supplemental funding to Israeli women who have secured overseas fellowships, a necessary step in the advancement of scientific careers in Israeli academe. Awardees receive funding for family travel, childcare, relocation costs and other expenses not covered by standard postdoctoral fellowships. Of the 146 fellows supported by the Advancing Women in Science Program, 93 have finished their postdoctoral research, 73 have gone on to lead their own labs—60 of whom returned to Israel. Others have chosen research positions in private industry in Israel and worldwide. The program’s success has inspired at least five similar programs in Israel supporting postdoctoral training abroad, with the goal of recruiting those women into faculty-track positions in Israeli academia. Revson/Weizmann Fellows participate in the Foundation’s meeting and dinner, providing an opportunity for all biomedical fellows to share their research and network with peers.

Strengthening Biomedical Research by fostering diversity and inclusion in postdoctoral training: The Revson/Burroughs Wellcome Fund PDEP partnership

In 2020, Revson commissioned a study of racial diversity in postdoctoral biomedical training, which showed that historically underrepresented minorities held only 1% of postdoctoral fellowships. Further research into best practices and models has culminated in an unprecedented partnership with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund’s Postdoctoral Diversity Enrichment Program (PDEP).

PEDEP’s decade long, evidence-based track record of success in nurturing greater diversity among our nation’s top biomedical researchers has led Revson to commit funding for five additional PDEP awards annually to postdoctoral researchers at institutions located in the New York metro area. By leveraging PDEP’s expertise, comprehensive approach and national network, Revson hopes to achieve a far greater impact in advancing broader representation of talented young scientists eager to advance biomedical research for the good of all. The partnership will formally commence with a joint request for proposals in the fall of 2023.

Betting on the ‘next generation’ of problem solvers, thinkers, and doers

The Foundation continues to support the next generation of talented young people, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, whose passions, voices and perspectives are needed to take on new challenges. Over the past several years, we’ve launched new fellowship programs and partnerships that align with and support broader program objectives within each of our four program areas.

Building on the Foundation’s long tradition of investing in the future of the City of New York, our education and urban affairs portfolios have focused on the key elements of civic life—our literal ‘civic squares’—including public libraries, and parks and public spaces; and our ‘civic connective tissue’ through strengthening local journalism, expanding voter participation and election reform, and in engaging younger New Yorkers in public service and the civic life of their city.

Reimagining local journalism for the 21 st Century requires the recruitment and training of young journalists who represent the extraordinary diversity of New York City. In 2018, Revson joined forces with the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY to establish the Lisa Goldberg/Revson Scholars program, which has provided funding to 80 students from first generation immigrant or minority backgrounds who express an interest in public service journalism. And as data journalism has become an increasingly essential tool in accountability and investigative journalism, Revson has entered a new partnership with the Newmark J School to pilot the Revson Data Journalists Fellows program, with the goal of diversifying the ranks of data journalists and growing the capacity of the city’s local outlets to produce data driven news.

The future of our city will also depend on a new generation of talented people who dedicate themselves to the critical job of making government work for all New Yorkers. To help meet this need, Revson is supporting the launch of the NYC Leaders Fellowship at the City College/Colin Powell School for Civic and Public Leadership’s newly established Moynihan Center. The fellowship provides high achieving students from diverse backgrounds with the training and direct hands-on experience they’ll need to advance into leadership positions in public service.

We are also partnering with the Urban Design Forum to pilot the ‘New City Critics’ fellowship, which supports emerging and underrepresented writers to engage in the design, development and planning of New York City’s built environment. This fellowship seeks to equip a new generation of urban design critics with new skills, a portfolio of potent projects, and a meaningful network of mentors and potential employers.

Supporting the next generation of city planners representing Arab Society in Israel

For well over a decade, Revson has been investing in new approaches to addressing urban revitalization and the chronic shortage of affordable housing in Israel, with an increasing focus on the Arab Sector. 70% of Israel’s 1.9 million Arab citizens live in 85 Arab towns and municipalities, almost all of which pre-date the founding of the State. For decades, these municipalities have contended with complicated and lengthy planning and approval processes that rarely align with the unique circumstances of the built environment in Arab communities.

The expertise and cultural competency needed to spur innovation, reform and implementation of redevelopment plans are limited by a significant underrepresentation of Arab society in Israeli government, academia and private industry. To help build a pipeline of talented planning professionals from these communities, Revson has recently partnered with like- minded foundations, the Urban Planning Clinic at Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University to establish a fellowship for 40 Arab and Bedouin students seeking to obtain graduate degrees in City Planning. The program is specifically designed to build and broaden expertise in addressing the unique challenges of Arab municipalities and includes study abroad, research and practice-based training and leadership experiences.

Revson’s new generation of fellowship programs continue to be guided by the formative work of its founding leaders and the inspiration drawn from our benefactor, Charles H. Revson. Fellowships remain a powerful tool in our philanthropic arsenal. Betting on people through investments in fellowships is still an act of faith and patience—its efficacy, however, stands the test of time; and its agility offers great opportunities to align new sources of talent and skill with pressing needs of today and tomorrow.

Prior President’s Letters

Spring 2021

Winter 2020

Summer 2017

Fall 2015