The Philanthropist Giving Big to His Former Public School (and More) in Philadelphia

 photo: Oleksandr Lipko/shutterstock

photo: Oleksandr Lipko/shutterstock

Up until recently, we weren’t familiar with the philanthropy of Joseph Field, the founder of Entercom Communications, which is one of the largest radio broadcasting companies in the nation with over 100 stations in dozens of markets. But that changed when we first heard about Field’s big commitment to Central High School in Philadelphia.

This is the oldest continuously-run public school in the U.S., and Field is the big donor for an ambitious capital improvement plan that involves a new performing arts center for theater and music programs. As an alumnus of the high school, Joseph Field spearheaded the project, which has secured more than $19 million in funding so far. The initial $10 million was provided by Field. Financially, that’s about halfway to the project’s goal for building new music tech labs, lesson facilities, a 400-seat performance hall, and lobby featuring student art. There’s also a big sustainability push with this new high school building in terms of natural lighting and eco-friendly storm runoff fixtures.

Field, who’s now well into his 80s, has deep roots in Philadelphia—as you might guess given that he went to public high school in the city many decades ago. He’s a Philadelphia native and practiced law in Philadelphia and New York before getting into the broadcasting business. Around town, he has been significantly involved in the local arts and culture scene over the years. For example, he has served on the boards of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the Settlement Music School, and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. In addition to Field’s law degree, he has a D.M. from the Curtis Institute of Music. Although Field’s wife, Marie, is from New York, she also has a passion for music. Marie Field studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music and is a retired teacher.

Besides art and music, Field also has an interest in issues involving children and youth. He has served on the advisory board of the University of Pennsylvania’s Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice, and Research. Meanwhile, Marie Field has served on the boards of the National Liberty Museum and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Field and his wife, Marie, hail from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania and are also known as a power couple in Democratic circles and Pennsylvania political campaigns. They gave to Obama’s presidential campaign and contributed at least $59,200 to the Obama Victory Fund. The couple has also given steadily to Pennsylvania candidates, the Democratic National Committee Super PAC, and Planned Parenthood.

The Malvern, Pennsylvania-based Joseph and Marie Field Foundation last reported over $37 million in assets. Joseph Field serves as the foundation president, Marie Field as the vice president and secretary, and John C. Donlevie as the assistant secretary and treasurer. This foundation doesn’t give out a ton of grants each year, but they often range between $40,000 and $150,000 each. In addition to the big high school grant, past support in Philadelphia has gone to organizations the Fields are involved with, including the Curtis Institute of Music, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia-area grantseekers, the Fields do not have a website for their foundation or provide a clear way to get in touch with funding requests. However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more arts and youth grants going to Philadelphia groups now that Joseph and Marie Field are in their golden years. However, the couple tends to give to organizations that they have a personal connection with, so it’s hard to say whether unaffiliated groups have much of a chance with this funder in the years ahead.

You can learn more about where the Field Foundation has been giving in its recent 990 forms.