The American Indian College Fund (the Fund) received a remarkable gift this year. The Herman Lissner Foundation granted the Fund $100,000 for Native student scholarships. The Fund regularly enjoys gifts from its corporate, individual, and foundation donors, but this gift stood out because of the personal nature of the donors who established the New York based non-profit foundation.
Herman and Gerda Lissner, who are now gone from this world, were Holocaust survivors who emigrated from Germany to New York. Herman was a fashion industrialist whose first factory was in New Jersey. Herman Lissner, always a philanthropist, was memorialized by his wife in 1947 following his death with the incorporation of The Herman Lissner Foundation.
The Lissners’ philanthropic spirit, supporting social, educational, medical and cultural causes, continued beyond Gerda’s death at 102 (by some records 104) years of age. In accordance with the wishes of Mrs. Lissner, the Foundation is being dissolved this year after dispensing its final grants.
The Lissners’ will and determination to rebuild a new life from scratch in a new country is remarkable. But to have survived the atrocities committed in Europe during the Holocaust with one’s faith in humanity intact is even more so. And to succeed and use that success as a tool to give back to deserving and important causes and those less fortunate is astounding.
The American Indian College Fund is multiplying The Herman Lissner Foundation’s philanthropic good works by applying their final generous gift to a matching gift challenge to establish the Johnson Scholarship Foundation Endowed Entrepreneurship Scholarship Program. This $1.5 million endowment fund will support scholarships awarded to American Indians studying business or entrepreneurship programs at tribal colleges and other universities. The Johnson Scholarship Foundation has pledged to grant the American Indian College Fund $750,000 if the Fund matches this pledged gift through other sources. The contribution from The Herman Lissner Foundation is helping the American Indian College Fund meet those fundraising goals, making their gift a beautiful ending to a beautiful story.