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New York City
March 2002

Edith Everett, CEO, Gruntal & Co., Philanthropist, CUNY Trustee Emeritus

Pivotal Points: After teaching elementary school and staying home to raise my children, the pivotal point was changing careers to work in the investment business. I had no formal training and it was very different from what I was doing before. But, it added a dimension to my knowledge base and that was very important.

Achievements: I had the opportunity to use the background of the education and business worlds together in a meaningful way when I was invited to sit on the City University Board of Trustees. That brought me back to my basic, first and probably over-riding interest, which is education.

Obstacles: Working in the investment field was an opportunity for women. There were very few of us in the business at the time. If you were a broker, as I was, you were a kind of independent entrepreneur and if you developed the clientele, it didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. In the early days I used to do a lot of independent research and speak to company presidents. It was interesting because to some extent they were disarmed by a woman and I often felt that they were more forthcoming with me than they would be with a hard pressing male caller. I encountered few obstacles.

Later, as my career advanced, there were the ups and downs in the market. One of the difficult things in this recent year was realizing the excesses in the market. It was hard to sit back, see stocks rising continuously and knowing that something was wrong. It took a lot of diligence to say, “I will not fall into that trap and will protect my people because they cannot afford to lose their money.”

Mentors: I would say from a professional point of view in the financial business it was clearly my husband who was the most helpful. I learned a great deal from him (he is an economist and has an MBA in finance) because my formal education was not in that field. I really had to apply myself and study independently. It’s hard to point to mentors in my life, frankly. I do believe that people have important impacts on other peoples lives, but I can’t point to any single one. My parents were wonderful: supportive, thoughtful, and loving. They were very important to me in terms of who they were, what they stood for and their value system and their love. These are the things that gave me the courage to try the things that I have tried and to be bold in places where I needed to be bold over the years.

Achievements: I think that the non-business aspects of my life are the most satisfying ones. From the business point of view I am very pleased that we developed strong relationships with clients. I think that the most important thing that happened—both in philanthropy and in business– was the level of trust that we were able to engender. My clients knew I was doing the very best I could do for them. I tried to be thoughtful in terms of their needs. I don’t think I’ve ever lost a client. When you have relationships like that you feel very good.

In general, in my personal life and philanthropic life we’ve been multiply blessed. We are fortunate to have two wonderful children and three lovely grandchildren. My husband and I work closely together and have a common value system. Our philanthropic life has been exceedingly rewarding. In terms of education, which is my first love, at CUNY I was able to be helpful on various projects and speak up on behalf of students and that was a wonderful opportunity from me.

I am now working on a new education initiative through CUNY, which is designed to restructure public school administration. Administrators will be trained to take care of financial and administrative matters so that the principal can focus on educational leadership. The big problem for teachers these days is that no one supports them. We need that knowledgeable principal in the classroom to work with teachers and help hone their skills. We thought fourteen years ago it would be important to encourage college students to look at the nonprofit world as a possible profession. We provided the opportunities for them to work at organizations and paid them for 10 weeks over the summer. Today, 200 interns work at 60 nonprofit organizations as a result of this program. [Everettinternships.org]

Advice: Young people should understand that in order to succeed they need to become knowledgeable and be prepared to work hard. The person who stays at the job the extra half hour to get it done, is the one who will be noticed. Young people have to know when to speak up and when to wait for the right moment.

Goals: I want to do more philanthropic work. It gives us a great deal of personal satisfaction. It’s extraordinarily gratifying to say ‘yes we can impact.’ We try to convince other people, especially young people, that they have the capacity to be philanthropic. Irrespective of one’s resources, each person can do things that can make a difference.

In the next couple of years I will leave the investment business to others. Having worked full time throughout my adult life I have not had a chance to do many things. I’d love to have more time to visit museums and take courses in subjects just for my general interest and pleasure that don’t have direct outcomes. Maybe a philosophy or science course.

[Among the many programs that have benefited from the Everett’s largesse is the Everett Lounge at Teachers College, the Everett Children’s Garden at the NY Botanical Gardens, Teach for America, the National Board of Hillel, a school grades 1-12 that they built and maintain currently in a small town in Israel, and the Everett Performing Arts Center of Dance Theater of Harlem.]#


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