Our History

The Educational Foundation of America was established in 1959 to preserve the lifelong altruistic commitment of its founders, Richard Prentice Ettinger and his wife, Elsie P. Ettinger.

Mr. Ettinger earned his law degree from New York University at age 18 and, too young to take the bar exam in New York, began his career teaching finance at his alma-mater. As a professor he recognized the need for more effective teaching materials in his field, so wrote a textbook on creditors’ rights. Mr. Ettinger realized there was a need for additional high-quality college texts. As a result, he and one of his teaching peers-using their grandmothers’ maiden names-founded Prentice-Hall Publishing.

Mr. Ettinger’s career remained closely associated with education, particularly higher education. His goal was the development of effective teaching materials to both improve the quality of education and make it more widely available to all. He wanted to help people reach their full potential and prepare for careers that would yield a high level of self-fulfillment. He had a similar goal for the charitable foundation he launched, The Educational Foundation of America. Mr. Ettinger also believed that over-population was the most serious problem facing the world, and he used the Foundation’s funds to address that issue.

Mr. Ettinger provided the initial funding of the Foundation, and other family members have added capital. During his lifetime, Mr. Ettinger was able to make effective and innovative grants that set a pattern of effective giving for the present Board of Directors to emulate. Mr. Ettinger was also a visionary. He realized that tomorrow’s problems would not necessarily be the same as those facing his generation. As a result, he insisted there be flexibility in the board’s grant making, so future board members could address the most pressing issues of their time.

Two of Mr. Ettinger’s children, Richard P. Ettinger, Jr. and Elaine P. Hapgood, continued the heritage of their father’s charitable giving. Richard P. Ettinger, Jr., who passed away in 1996, was an innovative and inspirational philanthropist. Greatly influenced by Dee Brown’s book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Mr. Ettinger began a lifelong commitment of funding Native American causes. True to the traditions established by his father, he stood for many years in the vanguard of Native American advocacy. In particular, he fought to provide educational opportunities to Native Americans. Eventually, he was successful in bringing Native grant making not only to the EFA board but also to charitable giving in general.

Mrs. Elaine P. Hapgood, who passed away in October 2012, was similarly inspired. Attending an International Planned Parenthood Foundation Conference in then Pakistan (now Bangladesh) ignited her passion for overpopulation issues. Mrs. Hapgood chose to dedicate her life to ensuring the availability of reproductive health services to men and women, regardless of age, race, religion or economic status. She has also committed herself to promoting environmental preservation and conservation, which has become a focal point of EFA funding.