Published Online: June 16, 1999
Published in Print: June 16, 1999, as Philanthropy



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Boston's Godmother: Pam Trefler, called the "godmother" of the Boston public schools by administrators there, unveiled a $2 million grant last month for use at two city high schools. It was the third large gift given by the philanthropist's Boston-based Trefler Foundation to individual Boston high schools over the past two years.

The money will be spent on efforts to restructure the 1,300-student East Boston High School and the 1,600-student Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, Ms. Trefler said in an interview. The University of Massachusetts Boston will distribute $1 million to each school and work on fiscal oversight. The university staff will also provide technical assistance on the projects.

"High schools are generally the hardest schools to change ... and usually the last to be focused on," Ms. Trefler said.

Ms. Trefler, a former investment banker, and her husband, Alan Trefler, who started and then sold Boston-based software company Pegasystems, also have donated $700,000 to English High School and $1 million to Dorchester High School for restructuring.

Restructuring is the process of making large high schools feel smaller by grouping students into learning clusters by grade level, subject matter, or academic achievement, said Gretchen O'Neill, a spokeswoman for the city schools. Restructuring plans must be implemented in all 21 Boston public high schools by September 2000 in accordance with a 1997 agreement between the local teachers' union and the Boston school committee.

"When someone outside [of the school system] takes this kind of notice, there's a feeling within the school building that people really do care and that [students] do matter," Ms. O'Neill said of Ms. Trefler's gift.

Record Gift: Bill Gates, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Microsoft Corp., and his wife, Melinda Gates, have announced a $5 billion gift to the William H. Gates Foundation, much of which will likely help pay for projects in education.

The gift, announced June 3, is considered by many to be the largest ever given to a foundation by living donors, said Trevor Nielsen, a spokesman for the Redmond, Wash.-based foundation.

Though it has yet to be decided how the foundation will use the money, the 5-year-old organization continues to focus on education, global health, and community giving in the Pacific Northwest, Mr. Nielsen said.

The endowment for the foundation is now $10 billion. A separate organization, the Gates Learning Foundation, has an endowment of $1.3 billion.

--Julie Blair

Vol. 18, Issue 40, Page 7

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