The Responsibility to Act

Barnard parents Ann and Andrew Tisch support displaced student with new scholarship

By Leora Tanenbaum

This fall, Barnard began offering a newly funded scholarship called the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women. The scholarship will be awarded annually, and a student whose education has been interrupted as a result of war, persecution, conflict, natural disaster, or crisis will be able to attend Barnard through a generous gift to Barnard’s endowment from the Ann and Andrew Tisch family. The scholarship covers the full financial needs of the student for all four years of her undergraduate career, including tuition, housing, meals, books, travel, and stipends for internships and other co-curricular activities.

“There’s an old saying that when you affect an individual, you affect a world,” explains Ann Tisch, “and that is our intention here.”

More than twenty years ago, Ann Tisch had the vision to provide students growing up in low-income communities with a high-quality college preparatory education modeled on the finest private schools. She is the founder and president of Young Women’s Leadership Network, an organization that operates the Young Women’s Leadership Schools, a network of 18 all-girls public schools around the country, and CollegeBound Initiative, a coed college access program serving more than 18,000 students across New York City. Her husband, Andrew Tisch, is co-chairman of Loews Corporation and is currently writing a book about immigration. They are the parents of a Barnard graduate.

Having been deeply involved in educating girls and young women, the Tisches see the scholarship as “a natural extension of our work over the past two decades. Bringing this to Barnard is among the most exciting things we’ve done, and we are thrilled about it.”

This scholarship is important now, adds Ann Tisch, “because of the tremendous shifts and movements in the world’s population. Because of regional conflicts, such as those in Syria, millions of people have been displaced and driven from their homelands. One of the best ways to get an individual back into a normal and productive rhythm in life is to offer an education and a chance for upward mobility. Andrew and I have always known that education is the only true equalizer.”

From its earliest years, Barnard’s commitment to social justice has been strong, with Barnard continuing to strive to promote diversity and inclusion—from its student admissions policies to its hiring of both faculty and staff. When national and international crises occur, such as the current refugee crisis in Syria, the Barnard community takes seriously its responsibility to act. With a vast and growing number of displaced persons, the Barnard community has been deeply concerned that thousands of young women face the daunting reality of fleeing chaos in their home countries and leaving their academic studies behind.

This scholarship began as an idea in the mind of Maia Bix ’17, who approached Debora Spar, then the president of Barnard, to express her frustration that Barnard had not engaged in a meaningful way with the Syrian refugee crisis and with “the complex educational challenges that arise in these contexts of mass displacement.” At Spar’s request, Bix drafted the idea of a scholarship and worked with three other students to research what other colleges and universities have done to help address this issue.

Ann and Andrew Tisch, who were looking for an opportunity to help educate refugee women, generously stepped up to provide funding. In the years ahead, the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women will likely support young women from a wide range of countries. With the fund in place, Barnard will have the freedom to respond quickly and in situations where the need is most urgent.

“Like millions of people,” says Ann Tisch, “we witness the horror of what’s going on in Syria and other nations around the globe. By sponsoring and funding this scholarship, we can make a contribution. We hope that the Barnard scholarship will become a copycat initiative, with other colleges inspired to follow this example. It is incumbent upon institutions of higher learning to stand tall against a worldwide humanitarian crisis that impacts young people who have the desire and the drive to learn. Efforts to embrace these students will serve us well in the future.”

Adds Interim Vice President for Development Beth Mauro, “Providing scholarship support for all students in financial need continues to be Barnard’s top priority. The College is deeply grateful for this exceptionally generous gift so that students who have experienced displacement can benefit from a Barnard education.”

The Class of 2017 was so moved by the plight of displaced people around the globe that it donated 25 percent of the money raised via the Senior Fund to the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women.

The Tisches recognize that “if we’re going to move the needle” for girls’ and women’s equity, “it starts with education,” says Ann Tisch. “We know that this scholarship will be put to excellent use and will have an incredible impact on the young women who have access to it.” 

Latest IssueSpring 2023