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John Hay Whitney Foundation records

Call Number: MS 1952

Scope and Contents

The records document the organization and activities of the John Hay Whitney Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and social welfare. The collection consists of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, project and program files, fellowship recipient files, and financial records created and maintained by the organization. The records cover all aspects of the organization’s activities from its inception in 1946 to shortly after its dissolution in 1983.

The collection provides a rich resource for the study of the Foundation. Material on the Foundation’s origins and history are found in the collection, as is material related to the administration of the organization, such as bylaws, meeting minutes, and reports. The Trustees' and Members’ minutes provide an accounting of decisions made in quarterly meetings, but very limited documentation about their deliberations. The records include members' minutes from December 1946 until September 1958 and April 1960 until September 1980 and trustees' minutes from December 1946 until May 1960 and June 1961 until June 1983. There is limited information regarding the Foundation's closing that can be found in correspondence and in financial records.

Financial records provide documentation on the financial state and transactions of the organization. Of particular interest are the files relating to the Internal Revenue Service’s unsuccessful challenge to the Foundation’s tax exempt status in 1971. The Foundation’s response is thoroughly documented in the auditing files through legal records and correspondence. In addition to providing a full accounting of the organization's financial state, the Internal Revenue Service investigation response provides substantial background on the organization. On the whole, the financial files summarize the Foundation’s financial history through incoming contributions and investments and outgoing grants and donations.

The collection’s greatest strength is its documentation of the Foundation’s projects and programs. The number and scope of projects and programs supported by the Foundation is well documented by the records. Of particular note are the files on the Foundation’s fellowship programs: the Opportunity Fellowship Program and John Hay Fellows Program. The collection contains a substantial number of records pertaining to these two programs, including correspondence, photographs, and reports, as well as written commentary by fellows discussing their experiences in the programs between 1960 and 1963. Beyond the administrative files on the fellowships, the collection contains a complete run of Opportunity Fellowship and John Hay Fellows recipients’ files, which provide information about the recipients. Material concerning the Foundation’s smaller projects is limited to routine correspondence and brief descriptions of project goals and activity.


  • 1946-1994


Language of Materials

The materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the Yale community for research and teaching. Other researchers require the written permission of the Greentree Foundation to access the collection prior to January 1, 2050, after which the papers are open for research without restriction. No reproduction in any form of this material is permitted prior to January 1, 2050. After January 1, 2050, reproduction is permitted but subject to applicable copyright laws.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by John Hay Whitney was transferred to Yale University. These materials may be used for non-commercial purposes without seeking permission from Yale University as the copyright holder. For other uses of these materials, please contact

Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


The records are organized into two series: I. Administration, 1946-1994. II. Fellowship Recipient Files, 1950-1971.

Related Materials

John Hay Whitney and Betsey Cushing Whitney Family Papers (MS 1938) and the Greentree Stud & Stable Records (MS 1953).


83 Linear Feet (101 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The records document the organization and activities of the John Hay Whitney Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and social welfare. The collection consists of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, project and program files, fellowship recipient files, and financial records created and maintained by the organization. The records cover all aspects of the organization’s activities from its inception in 1946 to shortly after its dissolution in 1983.

Biographical / Historical

The John Hay Whitney Foundation was originally named the Greenwood Foundation when it was founded by John Hay Whitney as a New York City-based, nonprofit corporation in 1946. Mr. Whitney returned from World War II with a social vision and desire to invest in people, ideas, and the future of post-war America. Greenwood Foundation’s mission stemmed from Mr. Whitney’s belief that education could help ethnic minorities and individuals from underprivileged backgrounds realize their potential. The Foundation supported talented individuals who had been excluded from mainstream American life because of race, gender, poverty or substandard schooling.

Between 1947 and 1949, the Foundation made grants for special projects led by other tax-exempt organizations in the fields of education, the humanities, and the social sciences. The first major grants were to the National Planning Association in Washington, D.C. for a labor relations study and a grant to support ten scholarships for African-American students studying the social sciences at Fisk University. In 1949, the Board of Trustees renamed the organization the John Hay Whitney Foundation and appointed subcommittees to administer their own programs stemming from the Foundation’s mission.

In 1949, the John Hay Whitney Foundation started its earliest major initiative called the Opportunity Fellowship Program. From 1950 to 1971, the Opportunity Fellowship Program awarded 956 fellowships to individuals pursuing graduate or professional study in the humanities and the study of the arts. The Foundation’s Committee of Award was appointed to review applications and select recipients, principally ethnic minorities and individuals from underprivileged backgrounds, who had encountered barriers to educational opportunities.

Two programs followed in 1951 which expanded the profile of a grant recipient to include professors. From 1951 to 1965, the Foundation established the Whitney-Fulbright Professorship to bring professors of the humanities and social sciences from other countries to teach at undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States. The Whitney Visiting Professors program named retired or retiring professors to a year of teaching at undergraduate colleges after completing work at their own institutions.

In 1952, the Foundation established their largest and most developed program, the John Hay Fellows Program. Designed to encourage education in the humanities through the training of secondary school teachers, there were two components: John Hay Year Fellows and John Hay Summer Fellows. The Humanities Committee awarded year-long fellowships to John Hay Year Fellows and coordinated planned study in the humanities at Yale University and Columbia University. In 1958, the Foundation secured additional financing from the Ford Foundation and the year-long program expanded to additional institutions, including Harvard University, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley. This funding allowed for the creation of the John Hay Summer Fellows who attended Summer Institutes for the Humanities at Bennington College, Colorado College, and Williams College. Between 1952 and 1966, the program supported 688 John Hay Year Fellows and 1,359 John Hay Summer Fellows.

The 1970s marked a shift in the Foundation’s focus from providing individual fellowships to supporting community-based educational and governmental agencies committed to the humanities and social sciences. After 1971, the Foundation supported one or two year projects related to, among other topics, farming, housing, education, and economic development in the United States.

John Hay Whitney served as the Foundation president from 1946 to 1970 and then chairman from 1970 until his death in 1982. Mr. Whitney planned for the dissolution of the Foundation in his estate and the Foundation ceased operations in 1983 but continued to spend down its funds on small grants and donations until 1986.

Source: John Hay Whitney Foundation, by Esther Raushenbush (Vol. I) and by Daniel Powell (Vol. II), 1972.

About the Creators was authored by Greentree Foundation.

Custodial History

Gift of the Greentree Foundation, 2009.
Guide to the John Hay Whitney Foundation Records
Under Revision
compiled by Caro Pinto
March 2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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