How This Wealthy Couple Supports Archaeology and Arts on Campus

In 2014, Bernard and Lisa Selz gave a $1 million challenge grant to LaGuardia Community College in Queens, New York, which the school later matched. We've written before about several key wins by that school in recent years, no small feat when philanthropic dollars often bypass two-year schools altogether. The Selz couple's big gift and steady support of the school are important to note. Lisa serves on the board of directors of LaGuardia and talks about getting her friends involved with the institution, as well.

Related: A Community College Scores a Rare Gift from Goldman Sachs. What's the Moral of the Story?

The Selzes have long been active philanthropists. Back in the 1980s, they established the Selz Foundation. Though he keeps a low profile, Bernard is a veteran in the finance world and currently runs Selz Capital in New York. A look at a recent tax form reveals that the foundation held some $173 million in assets and gave away around $12 million to more than 120 grantees. The couple's charitable interests are varied, and include policy, animals and the environment, and the arts.

Like their support of LaGuardia Community College, the couple's overall higher education philanthropy involves interests that don't always receive robust support. Bernard and Lisa Selz have endowed professorships and lecture series at several colleges and universities. Much of this work is focused on the social sciences—namely archaeology. Lisa holds a degree in Latin and the couple collects pieces from the Middle Ages. Selz's board memberships, meanwhile, include World Monuments Fund, where the couple has funded the organization's conservation and preservation work in Peru. Along with Selz and Lisa, a third trustee, Arnold Syrop, runs an architecture and design firm in Manhattan and went to Pratt Institute. 

Consider Selz's alma mater, Columbia University, home to professorships in medieval art, and pre-Columbian art and archaeology. The couple, via their foundation, recently gave the Ivy League school a $765,000 grant. The Selzes have also recently supported College of the Redwoods, a two-year school in Eureka, California. And not long ago, a Selz grant supported professor of archeology, Justine Shaw, whose work focuses on a former Mayan site in Mexico. 

Additionally, the couple supports Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology at Oxford University; Penn Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, where they've helped fund an exhibition called Native American Voices; Institute for the Study of the Ancient World; and NYU Institute of Fine Arts, where the couple recently funded a conservation fellowship. Selz and Lisa were lead supporters of new galleries of Ancient Egypt and Nubia at Ashmolean Museum.

The couple also seem to have a particular concern for educational opportunity for at-risk populations and have supported the Goucher Prison Education Partnership, as well as the Bedford Hills College Program at Marymount Manhattan College.

Because the foundation has a minimal web presence, it's tough to determine exactly what Selz and Lisa look for in their granteees. In addition, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, but those on campus working in social sciences and arts should keep this couple on their radar.

Related: Bernard Selz

Related: Selz Foundation: Grants for Higher Education