To the surprise of many in philanthropy, the Stupski Foundation, a 16-year-old operating fund dedicated to improving public education, announced July 17 that it would close.
Started by Larry Stupski, former head of the Charles Schwab Corporation, and his wife, Joyce Stupski, a former teacher, the foundation had assets of roughly $112-million and an annual budget of at least $10-million. It has focused since 2011 on a new strategy to involve students in six schools in decisions about their own education. The foundation was also in the process of transitioning into a grant-making foundation.
In a message on the philanthropy’s Web site, the Stupskis said the decision to shut down stemmed from personal circumstances.
“We carefully considered our commitments, intentions, and current life and health situations and believe that this very personal decision is the necessary and right one at this point in time,” they wrote.
The foundation shifted strategies several times over the years, first from an approach focused on specific school districts to one emphasizing innovation and then to the current focus on strengthening student engagement in individual schools.
Susan Colby, a former partner at the Bridgespan Group who has led the foundation since January 2011, said the Stupskis were enthusiastic about the current strategy.
“They were really excited about the work we were doing and felt it was incredibly promising,” she said. But “circumstances wouldn’t permit them to be the drivers of it.”
The foundation, which employed about 20 people, will provide grants to each of the six schools to continue their work. It will also honor grant commitments to the handful of other nonprofits it supported. The Stupskis will donate the foundation’s remaining assets to charitable causes including education, Ms. Colby said.
The Stupskis were very active donors who infused their foundation with fresh thinking, say people familiar with the fund.
Chris Tebben, executive director of Grantmakers for Education, says the foundation was among the first to consider how the problem-solving approach known as “design thinking” could play a role in improving education. She said the foundation was adept at working with and influencing other donors.
Barbara Chow, who leads education grant making at the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, called the Stupski fund’s recent focus on getting students more involved in their education “an important area of work.”
“The Stupski Foundation’s passion for the work will be missed both by the field and the philanthropic sector,” she said in an e-mail.