Meet the Low-Profile Funder Supporting Early Childhood Education in Camden

The late Pennsylvania industrialist John E. Morgan shunned publicity during his lifetime. The head of J.E. Morgan Knitting Mills, Morgan developed and patented the waffle stitch, a method of knitting that fueled the mass production of thermal fabrics used in blankets and long underwear. He is sometimes credited with the invention of thermal underwear.

Morgan's philanthropic activities began before his death in 2001, and the foundation that bears his name continues to maintain the low profile he established. The John E. Morgan Foundation does not maintain a website, and little information about the funder's giving is available. According to the foundation's IRS Form 990, filed in 2012, the foundation has more than $57 million in assets.

The foundation's interests lean toward health care and higher education projects. Morgan himself supported the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Pennsylvania ad Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. The foundation also has supported Penn State University campsues in Hazleton and Schuylkill.

A recent gift from the Morgan Foundation combined higher education and early childhood education, with its grant of $1.5 million to the Rutgers-Camden Community Leadership Center. The grant will support efforts by Rutgers University-Camden to support and transform early childhood education in Camden, one of the neediest cities in the nation.

Once a thriving industrial center, Camden today is synonymous with poverty, crime, corruption, and urban decay. Children in Camden are far more likely to live in poverty than other children in New Jersey. In 2012, less than half of Camden students complete high school, and only 1.5 percent met the state's college readiness benchmark.

The Morgan Foundation grant will accelerate the efforts of the Rutgers-Camden center to develop a seamless curriculum that fosters healthy cognitive and social development from birth through high school. Upon completion of the grant in 2017, the John S. and James L. Knight Early Learning Research Academy at Rutgers-Camden will establish an endowment, with $1.5 million from the Morgan Foundation and $1.5 million from other donors, to support successful Rutgers programs for children.

The Morgan Foundation may not have the name recognition of Gates, Dell, or Walton, which is perhaps the way John E. Morgan would have it, but organizations in the region interested in health care, higher education, and early childhood should keep this funder in mind.