The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer. The foundation makes grants to support research for areas of education, widely construed.
Lyle M. Spencer was the founder of The Spencer Foundation. Spencer grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin and attended college in the Pacific Northwest. He received both an undergraduate degree and master’s degree in sociology from the University of Washington in Seattle. Lyle Spencer’s father served as president at said university from 1927-1933. Spencer continued graduate work in sociology at the University of Chicago. While serving as CEO at SRA, Spencer was also participated on the trustees board of three universities, he was a director of what is now the United Negro College Fund, and actively sat on the committees for education at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. During his graduate studies in 1938 at the University of Chicago he first founded Science Research Associates (SRA), an educational publishing firm. From SRA he obtained the wealth that made all possible to create the Spencer Foundation. SRA nearly went bankrupt in the first year and Spencer gave up this idea, essentially creating a commercial firm in 1939. IBM purchased SRA in 1964; meanwhile Spencer maintained the position of the firm’s chief executive officer up until 1968. Spencer came to realize the potential for his large fortune could affect educational research around the world after IBM bought it. Spencer left passion-filled notes on a vision for the Spencer Foundation. He expressed his concern for individual people and the individual learning process and his desire to support and fund educational projects. His essential wish was to improve educational opportunities While serving as CEO at SRA, Spencer was also participated on the trustees board of three universities, he was a director of what is now the United Negro College Fund, and actively sat on the committees for education at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Lyle M. Spencer died of pancreatic cancer on August 21, 1968 and was buried in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Upon Spencer’s death, the foundation received a large endowment in 1968. The foundation began making formal grants in 1971. The foundation has since made grants totaling to $250 million.
Intentions and Purposes
With Lyle Spencer’s directions, the Foundation works to investigate in ways in which education can be improved around the world. There is a great dedication to research, as it is necessary for the improvement in education. The Spencer Foundation supports the research programs in high quality investigation of education. By awarding research grants and fellowships the Foundation pursues its mission. The foundation strengthens the connections in education research, policy and practice through communications and networking.
The list of directors includes current professors from the top Universities around the world. These board members are dedicated to the improvement of education. Deborah Loewenberg Ball Pamela Grossman Carol R. Johnson Micheal S. McPherson Richard J. Murnane Stephen W. Raudenbush C. Cybele Raver Mario Small T. Dennis Sullivan Mark A. Vander Ploeg
National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship Program
The foundation awards a series of prestigious fellowships to doctoral students completing dissertation research in any area of education research. Each fellowship is for $25,000 and supports individuals in their final year of their doctoral training. The average number of fellowships awarded is 25 out of 600 applicants. Selection is determined by members of the National Academy of Education and by highly respected senior education research scholars. It provides a number of networking and professional development opportunities and informally is seen as an indicator of who are some of the most promising researchers in education.
National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship Program
The foundation also awards a series of prestigious fellowships to early career education researchers, typically pre-tenured professors at research intensive institutions. Each fellowship is for a total of $55,000 and is for one or two years depending on the preference of the recipient. The fellowship relieves the researcher from a year's worth of teaching responsibilities in order to pursue an innovative and important education research project. The average number of fellowships awarded is 20 out of 200 applicants each year. Selection is determined by a committee of members of the National Academy of Education. Only scholars who have graduated from their doctorates within the previous five years may apply. Recipients of the fellowship also are recognized as the most promising young scholars in education research, and this is widely considered to be one of the top distinctions available to an early career researcher.
Every year the Foundation produces a list of grants made. The most recent list updated was in 2012 and includes the names of the receivers. The scholars are looking to study on topics such as, the relation between education and social opportunity, organizational learning in schools, school systems, and education institutions, and teaching, learning and instructional resources. Some of the people who were awarded major grants include:
• Christopher Avery – Kennedy School of Government – $189,475
• M. Thomas – Mississippi State University - $312,900
• Elaine Allensworth – University of Chicago - $575,325
• Susan Carey and Deborah Zaitchik – Department of Psychology - $340, 550
• M. Elizabeth Graue and Sharon Ryan - $394, 625 – University of Wisconsin- Madison
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