Herman Muehlstein Foundation

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Herman Muehlstein Foundation (1947-2005)

Mr. Herman Muehlstein was a prominent New York City industrialist and philanthropist. He was a merchant, importer and dealer in rubber. Mr. Muehlstein came from a modest beginning and emerged as an industrial leader of his newly adopted country. Herman Muehlstein was born in Erdokoz, Hungary in February 11, 1879 to Gabriel and Rosalie Durnfeld Muehlstein. He immigrated to the United States in 1893. He was educated at the public schools of New York City. Throughout his long and productive life, he maintained an interest in educational and charitable organizations and helped many underprivileged youth to receive an education. Mr. Muehlstein was active in many philanthropic organizations and helped organize several United Jewish Appeal drives and other welfare campaigns.

Mr. Muehlstein began in the rubber business as a youngster, serving his apprenticeship with the Loewenthal Company of Chicago in their New York office. In 1911 at the age of 31, he became an entrepreneur with his two brothers, Charles and Julius, and established H. Muehlstein & Co. with branches in Akron and Chicago. Over the years, the firm expanded until it had a large network of offices in the United States, Canada, and key industrial centers in Europe. 1 Mr. Muehlstein's business provided Allied Nations with rubber during World War II and helped shape the polymer industry. 2 Mr. Muehlstein was instrumental in developing the modern scrap rubber business and it was largely his influence that kept the operations of the trade functioning along ethical lines. In a trade journal published in 1950, he was referred to as "one of the deans of his industry in the United States." 3

Mr. Muehlstein's hobbies were collecting valuable books and famous paintings. In 1945, Mr. Muehlstein married to Miss Caryl Bergman, who shared his interests and avocational activities. She helped him with assembling his prized collection of rare books. Mrs. Muehlstein survived her husband and was also a friend of the University of Akron and received recognition by the Friends of the University Library. She was elected an honorary member of this group. 4

In the 1950s, the University of Akron President Norman P. Auburn met Mr. Muehlstein as a result of Auburn's service as director and president of the Council for Financial Aid to Education, Inc. Mr. Muehlstein developed business and personal relationships with Auburn as well as other University administrators and Board of Directors. 5

In 1955, Mr. Muehlstein made his first generous gift of rare books and first editions to the University of Akron. In June 1957, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by the University of Akron for "notable contributions to the welfare of his fellow men." From 1955 until his death, he served as Chairman of the Friends of the University Library. Upon Mr. Muehlstein's death in 1962, the University received the remainder of his treasured collection. Dr. Auburn stated that the University is indebted to him for his 257 priceless editions. In addition to his rare book collection, Mr. Muehlstein generously funded numerous student scholarships at the University of Akron. 6

Established in 1947, the Herman Muehlstein Foundation (HMF) was a non-profit corporation that used its income to provide for education of underprivileged youth of Greater New York. Its mission was to make contributions to educational and charitable organizations. Since its establishment, the HMF consistently gave $30,000 to the YM & YWHA yearly to screen and provide money to worthy students for scholarships and fellowships. After Mr. Muehlstein's death in 1962, the HMF was officially incorporated. From 1962 to the end of 1964, the distribution of funds from Mr. Muehlstein's estate was delayed due to the settlement of litigation and the HMF barely functioned, just moving its offices. Mrs. Muehlstein would not attend meetings to discuss the money problem.

In May 1965 at the first official Board meeting following Mr. Muehlstein's death, the HMF Board members decided how the money should be distributed and resumed activities. The Directors of the Foundation received $3.25 million from Mr. Muehlstein's estate and had assets of $4 million. The Foundation would need $250,000 to $275,000 yearly to cover the awards and operation expenses. 7

The HMF decided to follow the blueprint set forth by Mr. Muehlstein and made distributions in two categories: 1) awards for aid to students - fellowships, scholarships, and grants-in-aid and 2) awards for financial assistance to institutions. Awardees were divided into two categories: 1) Educational institutions (undergraduate, graduate and professional, or trade and polytechnic) and 2) Agencies (Y's, community centers and settlement houses, camps, counseling services, and special services to boys and young men). Selection of awardees was restricted to educational institutions/agencies that Mr. Muehlstein made contributions to or indicated an interest in during his lifetime (i.e., The University of Akron, City College of New York, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the 92 nd Street YM and YWHA, Brandeis University, Grinnell College and Mt. Sinai Hospital) and organizations located in the Greater New York area. 8 A Screening Committee made recommendations for grant awardees at each Board meeting.

In the early 1970s, the stock market became volatile and the HMF Board of Directors decided to cut back on grants to educational institutions and agencies. The stock market crash of 1973-1974 worsened the financial situation of the HMF. The HMF sold some of its securities and investing in sure stocks with the hope of generating more revenue and maintaining financial stability for the organization. As a result of the depression and the net worth lower, the Foundation had to restrict awards and started giving steadily smaller grants to organizations (for a complete giving history breakdown from 1971-1985, see chart in Box 9, Folder 6).

Starting in 1973, the net worth of the HMF decreased each year. At the board meeting in May 1977, the sale of securities was proposed by Board members. At the end of 1977, the net worth of the HMF hovered around $1 million. In 1978, organizations receiving grants were informed that future grants would be reduced due to the limited funds of the Foundation. From the early to mid-1980s, the awarded grants were considerably smaller. However, by 1986, the HMF could only afford to sponsor the three organizations that Herman Muehlstein was most interested in supporting: the University of Akron, the UJA-Federation of New York, and the City College of New York. In May 1988, Lauren Katzowitz Shenfield, the founder of the Philanthropy Advisors and executive director of the Foundation Service, was commissioned to help oversee the financial operations of the Foundation. In 1996, the Herman Muehlstein Foundation only gave $2,000 to each organization.

When Caryl Muehlstein died in 2001, the Herman Muehlstein Foundation received her estate. The money from her estate replenished the Foundation financially. Laurence Buttenwieser, treasurer of the HMF, decided that this was the best time to liquidate the Foundation since the organization was no longer under Muehlstein leadership. The HMF Board of Directors unanimously agreed with this proposal and decided to split its endowment among the three organizations (see above). At this point in 2001, the HMF had a net worth of $4.5 million. The Board of Directors decided to divide the money evenly so that each organization would receive $1.5 million. The HMF solicited grant proposals from these three organizations. Mrs. Shenfield reviewed the proposals and handled the financial decisions in the last years of the Foundation's existence.

The University of Akron used the funds to provide scholarships to underprivileged students (both from New York and elsewhere) as well as to provide laptop computers to all students and Internet access from all points on campus. The University used some of the funds to set up a Center of Inquiry and Learning at the University of Akron that attracted girls and young people of color to the sciences. 9 In 2002, the City College of New York (CCNY) used the $1.5 million to establish the Herman Muehlstein Honors College. 10 The CCNY established a Research Center for Minority Institutions that envisioned improved education available to students at the College and encouraged minority students to continue their education. The United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York utilized the funds to establish the Muehlstein Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership, aimed at instilling leadership skills in early-career professionals in the field of Jewish communal service. 11 In addition, the UJA established the Training Institute for Fundraisers in Jewish philanthropy. Since its establishment, the HMF awarded scholarships to thousands of students.

In October 2005, Mrs. Shenfield announced that in order to dissolve the Foundation, the HMF had to make its final payments by November 30, 2005. The Philanthropy Advisors monitored the current and final grants made by the HMF until its closing at the end of 2005. Recommendations for final grants were enclosed with the most recent reports from the applying organizations.

In 2005, the HMF Board of Directors decided to donate the Foundation's records to the American Jewish Historical Society. The Director of Library and Archives examined the archive and determined that the material is peripheral to other collections housed at the AJHS. In 2006, the collection was donated by the Philanthropy Advisors to the AJHS and an accretion was made by Mrs. Shenfield in 2009.

Footnotes 1 "H. Muehlstein, 83, A Philanthropist - Supplier to Rubber Industry Dies - Aided Students," New York Times, July 31, 1962 2 "The University of Akron: Herman Muehlstein Rare Book Collection" (http://www.uakron.edu/libraries/archives/collections/book/muehlstein.dot) 3 University of Akron Pamphlet (I-519, Box 1, Folder 1) 4 University of Akron Pamphlet (I-519, Box 1, Folder 1) 5 "The University of Akron: Herman Muehlstein Rare Book Collection" (http://www.uakron.edu/libraries/archives/collections/book/muehlstein.dot) 6 University of Akron Pamphlet (I-519, Box 1, Folder 1) 7 Herman Muehlstein Foundation Board Meeting Minutes (I-519, Box 4, Folder 2) 8 Herman Muehlstein Foundation Guideline/Blueprint (I-519, Box 1, Folder 5) 9 "UA Establishes Academy to Foster High School Student Interest in Mathematics and Science" (http://www.uakron.edu/about_ua/news_media/news_details.dot?newsId=9170&pageTitle=UA%20News&crumbTitle=UA+Establishes+Academy+to+Foster+High+School+Student+Interest+in+Mathematics+and+Science) 10 "Herman Muehlstein Foundation Awards $1.5 million to CCNY for Herman Muehlstein Honors College" (http://www1.cuny.edu/events/press/2002-01-17.html) 11 "Muehlstein Institute for Jewish Professional Leadership" (http://www.ujafedny.org/muehlstein-institute-for-jewish-professional-leadership) Other Sources: 1. Who's Who in American Jewry 1938-1939 Vol. 3, pp. 765. AJHS Call # REF E184.J5 W6 2. The Concise Dictionary of American Jewish Biography. AJHS Call # REF E184.J5 C653 1994 3. "Along the Highways and Byways of Finance," by Robert E. Bedingfield, New York Times, February 14, 1954 4. "Plastics Academy Hall of Fame" (http://www.plasticshalloffame.com/printpage.php?articleId-99http://www.plasticshalloffame.com/printpage.php?articleId-99) 5. "Highlights in the Life of Herman Muehlstein" (I-519, Box 1, Folder 1) 6. Herman Muehlstein Foundation Modus Operandi (I-519, Box 1, Folder 2) 7. Minutes of the Herman Muehlstein Foundation (I-519, Boxes 3-6) 8. 25th Anniversary of the Herman Muehlstein Foundation Speech given by Norman P. Auburn, November 16, 1972 (I-519, Box 4, Folder 6)

From the guide to the Herman Muehlstein Foundation, records, undated, 1947-2007, (American Jewish Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Herman Muehlstein Foundation, records, undated, 1947-2007 American Jewish Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith 92nd Street Y (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Auburn, Norman P. (Norman Paul), 1905-2003 person
associatedWith Buttenwieser, Laurence person
associatedWith City University of New York. City College corporateBody
associatedWith Gallagher, Buell G. (Buell Gordon), 1904- person
associatedWith Muehlstein, Caryl person
associatedWith Muehlstein, Herman person
associatedWith Nadel, Jack person
associatedWith Schur, Ira person
associatedWith Schur, Samuel J. person
associatedWith Shenfield, Lauren Katzowitz person
associatedWith Solender, Sanford, 1914- person
associatedWith United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York corporateBody
associatedWith University of Akron corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Chicago (Ill.)
Akron (Ohio)
New York (N.Y.)

Corporate Body

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