The modern Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (TBFF) was established in 1997. TBFF traces its origin to 1959, when the late Thelma Fordham Pruett founded it in memory of her first husband, an Ohio industrialist who passed away in 1945. It was virtually re-launched in 1997, following Mrs. Pruett’s death. Her estate provided the Foundation with an infusion of resources that led to the expansion of its board and the development of a coherent mission and program: the renewal and reform of primary/secondary education in the United States and in Dayton, Ohio, particularly.
Read Checker's letter describing the birth of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation (now Institute), as a rebirth of the Educational Excellence Network
In 2004, TBFF was approved by the Ohio Department of Education to serve as a sponsor of community schools- making us the first nonprofit organization in the Buckeye State to acquire such a responsibility. Through sponsorship, we are able to apply our policy work, research findings, and expertise, so that students may benefit.
In 2007, the Foundation was joined by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a public charity that shares its mission (as well as its staff, trustees, and offices). At that time, the Foundation became a “supporting organization” (in IRS terminology) of the Institute. Today, the Institute is the public face of nearly all that Fordham does, including our DC-based think tank, and our Columbus-based policy shop, while the Foundation uses its modest endowment, supplemented by generous support from other funders, primarily to support the Institute’s work and to serve as sponsor to a growing portfolio of Ohio charter schools.
With a staff of twenty and a blue-ribbon board of nine, we’re a small but energetic organization, restless in our quest to improve America’s schools. Though serving as the “Education Gadfly” can be lonely work, it’s needed now more than ever. A consensus is growing that America’s schools need a dramatic overhaul. While that consensus creates great opportunities, it also carries the risk of groupthink. We're here to help keep reformers honest and defenders of the status quo on their toes.
Neither organization has any connection to Fordham University (though we hear it's a pretty good school).