Photo courtesy of Queens College.

FJC Donor Expands Opportunity at Queens College

A Korean-American woman majors in History, Political Science, and Anthropology and spends her summer volunteering to rebuild Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.  A Colombian man lives with his grandmother, following his mother’s deportation, while studying to become a journalist.  A first generation Chinese-American college student serves as President of the Chemistry Honor Society, where he tutors other students who struggle with chemistry.

What do these students have in common?  They are among the seven Queens College students that received financial support from Queens College alumni, as part of the Phi Epsilon Pi Endowed Fund.  One of this group of Queens College alumni is Robert Jacobs who actively uses FJC to support his philanthropic efforts.

In November 2018, Mr. Jacobs had an epiphany. By chance, he read a newspaper article about former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s generous donation to Johns Hopkins University—a gift ensuring that no accepted student would be unable to attend because of financial circumstances. In that moment, Jacobs knew that his time had come to make a difference at his alma mater, Queens College. Within a month, he established a scholarship to benefit students of academic merit who need financial assistance. 

Jacobs knew that his time had come to make a difference at his alma mater, Queens College. Within a month, he established a scholarship to benefit students of academic merit who need financial assistance. 

But that was just the beginning. After receiving touching letters of appreciation from his scholarship recipients, Jacobs shared the notes with his fraternity brothers and planted the idea of doing something greater. During a biannual Phi Epsilon Pi dinner, he proposed starting an endowment at the college. This was a chance for this group of friends to leave a legacy and to assist students for many years to come.

“All of us have forgotten whatever we learned in Contemporary Civilization, but we have not forgotten the opportunity that Queens College provided a bunch of poor, hardworking, smart kids from the five boroughs and Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” Jacobs says. “Queens College gave us a chance to succeed in ways that our parents, as products of the Depression and as second-generation Americans, could have only dreamt about.”

“Queens College gave us a chance to succeed in ways that our parents, as products of the Depression and as second-generation Americans, could have only dreamt about.”

With the help of 26 fraternity brothers and more participating each month, the Phi Epsilon Pi Endowed Fund has raised over $176,000 and continues to grow with consistent gifts from the fraternity brothers.  It has given them the opportunity to further the bond that was initiated so many years ago.. To date, the endowment has funded seven student scholarships over the past two years and it is expected that it will fund another two this year , and the funders are adding a mentoring component to the program.  Further, it has inspired a fellow fraternity to establish its own fund in support of student scholarships.

The demographics of Queens College are quite different from the institution they attended fifty years ago.  When Mr. Jacobs graduated in 1970, white students made up the vast majority of students at the school. Today, students of color represent nearly three-quarters of the student population, and nearly one-third are foreign born.  Another major change is tuition.  As part of the City University of New York system, Queens College began charging tuition since the mid- 1970’s.  While tuition of approximately $7,000 a year for a full-time undergraduate degree is quite modest compared with private colleges, it is still a hardship for many students.  Almost half of Queens College students come from households earning less than $30,000 per year. 

While the demographics are different, Jacobs and his fraternity brothers would rather focus on their similarities.  “They’re just like we were.  They’re strivers,” Jacobs states.  “None of my college friends were born with a silver spoon.” He also notes that public education was the foundation for his successful career, which included being a partner at Ernst & Young and now managing his own healthcare consulting practice.  “How can we not give back when we paid $46 a term?”

With their philanthropy, Jacobs and his peers are having a major impact on today’s Queens College students like Joss Montano.  The scholarship, Montano writes, “…guarantees that I will continue my education, a possibility I would be unsure of without the assistance it provides me. It is a nod at what I have been working toward, and an affirmation that the sacrifices my family has made for me to get an education, have been worth it.”

Portions of this article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of Queens College magazine and appear courtesy of Jennifer Beiner and the Queens College Office of Institutional Advancement.

Our Vision

All New York City youth and families with children will have a safe and stable place to call home and a community of support.

Our Strategy

The NYC Fund to End Youth & Family Homelessness uses its resources and influence to transform our city’s homelessness systems.  Currently, those systems function primarily to manage the crisis of homelessness.  We seek instead to prevent and end that crisis.

To do this, we support innovative, evidence-based, promising approaches that help youth and families facing housing instability keep their homes or move quickly into a new permanent home that is safe, stable, and affordable.

Shelter offers a place to sleep at night, but the solution to homelessness is a home.  Investing in access to quality, affordable homes is investing in our children’s – and our city’s – future.

Our Values

The Fund’s core values are to advance racial equity, LGTBQ equity, and lived expertise in the design of our housing and homelessness systems and in our own governance and operations.

Contrary to what many believe, people are not homeless simply because they made bad choices or had bad luck.   All of us make bad choices and have bad luck at different points in our lives, but all of us do not become homeless.  Those who do are those of us who do not have the protection of wealth and ownership – either in our own household or in our extended network – to cushion us when we have bad luck or make a mistake. 

Since our society has long excluded people who are Black, indigenous, and people of color from wealth and ownership opportunities (especially those who are also LGBTQ), we have limited the ability of these individuals, households, and communities to build that cushion of net worth.  As a direct result, it is disproportionately people in these communities who face homelessness when something goes wrong.

Moreover, the systems we have built to manage homelessness often reinforce inequity rather than reduce it, all too frequently denying people dignity, autonomy, and control over their own lives.  These systems are often also inefficient, expensive, and counterproductive, offering take-it-or-leave-it, one-size-fits-nobody interventions that don’t help people quickly find a stable home.

Instead, we must build systems founded on principles of equity and dignity that give people the resources they need to design their own solutions and achieve their own goals.

Our Governance

The Fund is committed to centering racial and LGBTQ equity and lived expertise of youth and family homelessness in its governance and operations.  As part of that commitment, the Fund currently reserves four seats on its Steering Committee for the two Co-Coordinators of New York City’s Youth Action Board and the two Housing Policy Fellows of New York City’s Family Homelessness Coalition

These Steering Committee members draw on their own lived expertise in New York City homelessness systems and partner with our philanthropic members to lead the Fund’s strategy, policy, and grantmaking work.  They also currently lead the Fund in developing a longer-term strategy for how to continue to advance equity and lived expertise as core values of what we do and how we do it.

The Fund is currently co-chaired by Beatriz de la Torre, Managing Director of Housing & Homelessness at Trinity Church Wall Street, and Rhonda Jackson, Housing Policy Fellow of the New York City Family Homelessness Coalition.

Our Contributors

The Fund’s current contributors are:

  • Block-Leavitt Foundation
  • Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation
  • Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • Melville Charitable Trust
  • Pinkerton Foundation
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • Trinity Church Wall Street

Special thanks to FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds for hosting the Fund.


For information about contributing to the Fund, applying for grant, or for press inquiries, please contact the Fund’s senior advisors – Barbara Carlson (barbcoccodrilli AT gmail DOT com) and John Kimble (jgkimble AT gmail DOT com).

FJC’s Webinar with UN Foundation: “Global Health in the Pandemic Age”

In times of global crisis, philanthropy can play a critical role in deploying resources quickly as governments and multi-lateral organizations mobilize for action. In our latest webinar, “Global Health in the Pandemic Age,” Kate Dodson, VP of Global Health at the UN Foundation spoke about how individual donors came together with corporate, foundation, and others to enable to the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to over 173 countries. “We used a nimble mix of partnership to get this done,” said Ms. Dodson, which included over 631,000 individuals from 193 countries (FJC donors among them!). The conversation was moderated by FJC’s Chief Executive Officer, Sam Marks. See the full recording here.

FJC Donors Join Forces to Battle COVID-19

FJC’s first-ever Collective Giving Campaign, focused on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, raised over $147,000 for six outstanding organizations that are tackling the impacts of the pandemic in a range of ways: food security, employment, grassroots organizing, small business support, public health, and research and development. During the campaign period in May 2020, donor contributions were matched dollar-for-dollar by FJC’s Special Initiatives Fund.

Over 90 percent of participating donors who responded to a post-campaign survey found many compelling reasons to participate, such as the elevation of strong, effective organizations (many of which were new to them); the ability to align their resources with other donors at FJC; and the opportunity to have their gifts matched, effectively doubling their giving. As one donor said in her survey response, “Let’s do more work together!”

The Center for Effective Philanthropy published a blog post by Sam Marks, CEO of FJC, with further reflections on the successes and challenges of the campaign. “The initiative suggests the power that DAF sponsors can bring when they provide focused guidance to rally disparate donors around a common cause,” he writes.

FJC also hosted a subsequent webinar highlighting the work of Food Bank for New York City, the top choice among FJC donors. Food Bank CEO Leslie Gordon spoke of the operational and logistical challenges of keeping food flowing where it has been needed most during the pandemic, and cautioned that the economic fallout of the crisis may create even greater need. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” See a summary and link to the full webinar recording here.

Table of funds

Highlights of FJC’s Webinar with Leslie Gordon, CEO of Food Bank for New York City [VIDEO]

Leslie Gordon, CEO of Food Bank for New York City, joined FJC’s CEO Sam Marks and dozens of FJC donors for our first-ever “Lunch and Learn” webinar on June 30 to discuss Food Bank’s extraordinary work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Food Bank was the most popular choice by FJC donors during its recent Collective Giving Campaign, receiving over $85,000 from FJC and its donors to mitigate the effects of the pandemic among New York City’s most vulnerable.

Gordon placed her own professional journey in a multigenerational family context, contrasting the informal approach to voluntary food delivery service in her grandfather’s day with the scale, sophistication and data driven approach of the Food Bank. Food Bank’s network of food pantries, community kitchens, and local, civic, and religious organizations are committed to preserving the dignity and choice of the individuals and families they work with, and they address food insecurity with the larger goal of developing New Yorkers’ self-sufficiency with other programs and services. Across all the partners, she said, “This is a human-centered problem, we want to treat people with respect and care.”

She also spoke of the operational and logistical challenges of keeping food flowing where it has been needed most during the pandemic, and cautioned that the economic fallout of the crisis may create even greater need. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

See the full webinar recording here.