At its 66th Annual Convention held in June of 1985, the organization formerly known as the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs of New York State, Inc., (BPW), approved the establishment of a not-for-profit tax exempt corporation for the purposes of generating and allocating of funds by means of an endowment for its program called the Grace Le Gendre Fellowship.
What was once known as the New York Federation has a long history of interest in furthering education for women and over the years had developed a unique history. What is known today as the NY Grace Le Gendre Endowment Fund, Inc. has its roots in 1934 as the Mabel Winters Scholarship, an education fund started with donations of $50 from the Rochester BPW, $28 from the BPW State Federation and $22 from Grace Le Gendre who served as State President as well as State Scholarship Chairman for nineteen years.
The program initially provided support via revolving loans to girls in high school. In 1942 the focus shifted to high school graduates needing funds for special courses. Then, in 1946, the Scholarship Committee recommended outright grants and awarded $500 to a graduate student at Cornell University in Industrial and Labor Relations. The State Scholarship was renamed in 1948 as the Grace Le Gendre Fellowship in recognition of her outstanding service and thereby initiated a focus on women in graduate study in NYS. As the times and the needs of women changed, so did the program.
Over time, Federation members began to express the need to expand and strengthen the Fellowship program. During the 1984-85 year, an Ad hoc Advisory Committee comprised of several former Fellowship Chairs was asked to conduct research into the feasibility of establishing a long-term funding arrangement for the State Fellowship program that could provide opportunities for increasing the number of annual awards as well as the funds available.
The Committee’s research was presented to the membership at the June 1985 State Convention. Their report recommended forming a “separate not-for-profit corporation” in the form of an Endowment Fund, chartered under New York State law and eligible for tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service. A motion was unanimously passed by the Convention body, with an allocation of $2,000 in seed money to develop promotional materials and initiate fund raising. In addition, the Ad Hoc Committee was expanded and charged with development of Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws and completion of the application for 501(c)(3) status to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
In June of 1986 the BPW/NY Grace Le Gendre Endowment Fund, Inc. was chartered through the New York State Attorney General’s office, noting that the Endowment Fund was organized for scientific, educational and charitable purposes. The Founding Members of the GLEF Board include Eugenia Barnaba, Marie E. Creel, Carol Greenough, Mary C. Hastings and Helen Swank. Interim tax-exempt status was granted by the IRS effective March 24, 1987, allowing the implementation of a full fund-raising effort (final determination of the tax exempt status was granted November 26, 1991).
In 2009 the National Federation of Business and Professional Women merged with its national foundation. The members of the New York Federation voted to become an independent organization and changed its name to New York State Women, Inc. (NYSWI)
. Subsequently, the name of the Endowment Fund was officially changed to NY Grace LeGendre Endowment Fund, Inc. and was so certified by the Attorney General’s office August 27, 2010.