History and Mission

Harry Scherman

Harry Scherman

The Scherman Foundation nurtures excellent nonprofit organizations and leaders in the fields of community development, environment, reproductive justice, human rights, the arts, and governmental accountability by providing long-term general operating support. It particularly values policy advocacy and grassroots organizing, believing that an engaged population creates multiple paths to equitable, sustainable, and structural social change. The Foundation has a special commitment to New York City, while also funding nationally and, in limited instances, internationally.

The Foundation was created in 1941 by Harry Scherman, founder of the Book-of-the-Month Club, as a small family foundation with average annual giving of about $100,000. He led the Foundation for almost 30 years, providing critical support to a broad range of organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Young Concert Artists, Mannes College of Music, the Little Orchestra Society, the New York Public Library, and several Jewish philanthropies.

Axel Rosin

Axel Rosin

Upon his death in 1969, Axel Rosin, the husband of Katharine Scherman Rosin, Harry Scherman’s daughter, became President of the Foundation. Mr. Rosin also served as President, and then Chairman of the Board, of the Book-of-the-Month Club from 1960 until its merger with Time Inc. in 1977. A portion of the merger proceeds went to the Foundation, as did substantial bequests from Harry Scherman, his wife Bernardine, and their son Tom Scherman, increasing its endowment and annual giving ten-fold. These bequests enabled the hiring of a professional staff and the expansion of giving to include support for organizations in the fields of conservation, peace and disarmament, community action and social welfare, human rights and liberties, family planning, and the arts. During this period, the Foundation provided early support to pioneering organizations including the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Physicians for Social Responsibility, as well as special projects including the creation and distribution in 1975 of a Vietnamese/English language and life guide for newly arrived immigrants. Distinguished Board members have included William Allen White, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Felix Rohatyn, Helen Edey, George Gallup, and Archibald Murray.

Katharine S. Rosin

Katharine S. Rosin

In 1993, Dr. Karen Rosin Sollins succeeded her father as President, while Mr. Rosin became Chairman. Dr. Sollins assumed the role of Chair in 1997 when the roles of President and Executive Director were merged into a single professional position. Staff leadership has been provided by David Freeman (1978-1993), Sandra Silverman (1993-2009), and Mike Pratt (2009-present.)

The Scherman Foundation’s core program focuses on six issue areas: ArtsEnvironmentGovernmental Transparency and AccountabilityHuman Rights and Liberties, Reproductive Rights and Justice, and Strengthening New York Communities.

In 2012, through the generosity of a bequest from Katharine Scherman Rosin (a distinguished author and longtime Foundation board member), the Foundation established a new giving program, The Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund, which provides support for a limited number of innovative, short-term and high-impact projects that address critical issues in the Arts, Strengthening New York Communities and the Environment.