SACRAMENTO, CA—March 9, 2022— The Jay Pritzker Foundation has been named the 2021 Bernard Osher Philanthropist of the Year in recognition of its historic $100 million commitment to the students of the California Community Colleges, the single largest gift to community colleges in the nation to date. Dan and Karen Pritzker of the Jay Pritzker Foundation were presented with the award by the Network of California Community College Foundations (Network) in a virtual ceremony held on March 9, 2022. The California Lieutenant Governor and California Community Colleges Board of Governors Member Eleni Kounalakis and California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley both joined as speakers to recognize this significant philanthropic contribution to the system.
In October 2020, the Jay Pritzker Foundation pledged $100 million, or $5 million annually for 20 years, to establish the “Finish Line Scholars Program,” which delivers scholarships and emergency financial aid for students at specified colleges in the three regions of California with the lowest percentage of adults who have college degrees. In the first year of this gift and with the help of the Foundation for California Community Colleges and local college foundation partners, Dan and Karen Pritzker’s generosity provided nearly $5 million to 8,262 students in the form of emergency financial aid, which was critical as they were struggling to stay enrolled in the face of a health and economic crisis, racial reckonings, and unexpected hardships.
“The Pritzker’s investment in our California Community Colleges will make all the difference in the world in our students lives and their ability to stay in school and complete a certificate or degree, or transfer,” said California Lieutenant Governor and California Community Colleges Board of Governors Member Eleni Kounalakis. “The success of our public higher education systems and students will help our state continue to be the economic powerhouse that it is and to set an example for the rest of the country.”
"The Jay Pritzker Foundation is the embodiment of the philanthropic spirit and commitment that this award is meant to honor,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. “Dan and Karen's unprecedented generosity is not only helping to change the lives of community college students in underserved regions in California, it is also helping to change the trajectory of giving in higher education.”
As the program moves into year two, focus has shifted to incorporate the scholarship component to help students stay in college and achieve their educational goals, whether that’s to earn a certificate or Associate’s Degree or transfer to a four-year institution. Students at the 34 eligible colleges are now able to receive up to $18,500 to cover the full cost of going to college.
“We are honored to present the 2021 Bernard Osher Philanthropist of the Year Award to Dan and Karen Pritzker, whose generosity will make a significant impact on our students and colleges for years to come,” said Geoff Green, President of the Network of California Community College Foundations and CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation. "This historic gift changes the landscape for community college philanthropy and makes a clear statement that our community colleges are perhaps the best tools we have for increasing social and economic mobility, addressing economic barriers to higher education, and tackling equity issues in our communities."
“Dan and Karen Pritzker’s commitment to our students is changing lives,” said Keetha Mills, President and CEO of the Foundation for California Community Colleges. “We hope their generosity inspires other donors to think of the California Community Colleges as an investment in our communities and the future prosperity of California.”
The Bernard Osher Philanthropist of the Year award recognizes distinguished philanthropic contributions to the California Community Colleges and is selected by the Network, an association of local college foundation professionals dedicated to philanthropy. The award is presented annually to an individual, corporation, or nonprofit organization that demonstrates a commitment to philanthropy and serves as a role model to encourage philanthropy for California Community Colleges.
The award is named after Mr. Bernard Osher for his history-making commitment to community college students in 2008. The Bernard Osher Foundation pledged an unprecedented lead gift of $25 million and committed additional match dollars, which ultimately resulted in the establishment of the $76 million California Community Colleges Scholarship Endowment for student scholarships.
By investing in the California Community Colleges, the Pritzkers have shown the power of philanthropy to make transformative change through community college education by increasing social and economic mobility, addressing economic barriers for students, and tackling equity issues in our communities.
About the Network of California Community College Foundations
The Network of California Community College Foundations seeks to elevate the role of philanthropy at California Community Colleges by supporting the needs of students and faculty in pursuit of exemplary student success and a world-class, highly educated workforce. To learn more, please visit ncccfweb.org.
About the Foundation for California Community Colleges
The Foundation for California Community Colleges is the official nonprofit foundation to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors and Chancellor's Office. The Foundation's mission is to benefit, support, and enhance the missions of the California Community Colleges system, the largest higher education system in the nation. Incorporated in 1998, the Foundation works to benefit all California Community College students, colleges, college foundations, and the system as a whole by accelerating paths to economic and social mobility, strengthening communities, and reducing barriers to opportunities for all Californians. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. For more information, visit www.foundationccc.org.