The Bruner Foundation was established in New York in 1963 by Rudy Bruner. As an immigrant to New York from Europe, Mr. Bruner built a successful metals company that grew from a small operation in a Brooklyn basement to a multi-million dollar public corporation. Throughout his life, Rudy Bruner was known for his great compassion for people, particularly those less fortunate than himself. Together with his wife Martha, he established the Bruner Foundation to create opportunity for others, and to instigate meaningful social change.
Like many other foundations, Bruner has consistently placed priority on assisting neglected and disenfranchised segments of society. Unlike other foundations, however, it has adhered to a farsighted funding strategy which has influenced national policy in health care delivery, holocaust studies, educational policy, non-profit evaluation methodologies, and more recently, has broadened the understanding of the urban built environment.
In its early years, the Foundation strategy was to support innovative programs that challenged existing social patterns and introduced new models of practice. More recently the Foundation has developed and continues to direct innovative programs of its own that have established new standards of practice in their respective fields. The Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, a national award for urban places, was founded in 1987 by architect Simeon Bruner. The Award is dedicated to discovering and celebrating urban places that are distinguished by quality design, and by their social, economic, and contextual contributions to the urban environment. The Bruner Loeb Forum, a collaboration between the Loeb Forum and the Rudy Bruner Award, seeks to advance the thinking on a variety of topics relating to the urban built environment. Similarly, the recently completed Rochester Effectiveness Partnership and its successor, the EthOS Project, have created new methods for improving the effectiveness of non-profit service delivery.
Building collaborative partnerships, leveraging resources and tackling complex societal issues are the common threads of the Foundation’s 40 year history. Over four decades, the focus of the Foundation has shifted several times. Its’ first major area of concern was the relative inequality of health care delivery across sectors of society. Recognizing that there was a shortage of physicians and nurses available to low income households in the New York area, the Foundation set about encouraging the creation of new types of health care positions that would make medical care more readily available to under-served segments of the population. Despite early opposition, Bruner fostered programs (largely through grants to programs in New York hospitals) for training of a "para-physician," who could deliver basic medical services under supervision of a doctor, thereby expanding medical care in poorly served areas. Each subsequent Bruner-funded program had a different emphasis, but all fostered the rigorous training that enabled the new para-physicians or "physician assistants," as they came to be called, to perform many tasks formerly reserved for doctors. Recognition of physician assistants by government and the medical profession was eventually achieved, and the concept has since spread across the country.
Later work by the Foundation further expanded health care delivery. Projects in the New York public schools, particularly in Brooklyn, and with the Brookdale Hospital, explored the relationship between adequate health care and the educational performance of students. These established important correlations between health and learning, and helped expand the role of school nurse to assist families in gaining access to diagnostic and referral services, and in obtaining health care for their children.
By the early 1970s the Foundation was becoming a leader in what was then a very new field -- evaluation of non-profit service delivery. Its initial application of evaluation models involved programs that were designed for the elderly, and more particularly, measuring outcomes of programs designed to maintain existing functional levels in older adults. Related work examined the effect of programs that increased inter-generational interactions between seniors and adolescents. Consistent with its interest in the elderly population, the Foundation also helped pioneer new approaches to the teaching of geriatrics. As a result, in part, of Bruner Foundation involvement, the George Washington University Medical Center's curriculum integrated geriatric medicine into training of health personnel.
The Bruner Foundation has always maintained a consistent commitment to Jewish religion and culture. When it became apparent in the 1970s that there was little meaningful teaching about the holocaust in the public schools, the Foundation assisted the Anti-Defamation League of New York to create a Holocaust Information and Teaching Center. The goal was the development of curriculum materials in history, social studies, ethics, and literature that promoted responsible age-appropriate discussion of the holocaust in New York City schools. Beginning with this effort, the Foundation was instrumental in promoting the field of holocaust studies, which is now well-established through such curricula as "Facing History and Ourselves." (The Ford Foundation recognized the importance of the Foundation’s work in this area.)
In the 1980s the Foundation further developed its unique expertise in evaluation of non-profit service delivery through continuing involvement with the New York public schools. The Foundation thus helped to develop new methodologies for measuring the effectiveness of a variety of educational programs. Examples of Foundation involvement include Studio in a School, where the Foundation assisted in the design of a three year evaluation study of an ongoing program which brings practicing artists into public schools. The Bruner Foundation also developed an interview-based evaluation model to examine whether direct involvement with artists in the schools supported artistic development in children; the significant variables involved in determining success; how students can connect their art experience to other learning. In other school-based studies, issues such as class size and the effectiveness of the then new community school model were examined in evaluations sponsored by the Foundation.

The Foundation’s commitment to the evaluation of non-profit services became a major focus in 1996 with the beginning of the Rochester Effectiveness Partnership (REP). Through the leadership of the Bruner Foundation, REP brought together non-profit providers of services, funders and evauation professionals in Rochester, NY, who were committed to improving the effectiveness of their work through extensive training, peer learning and guided evaluation practice. During the seven years of the project, Bruner Foundation was the major funding partner.

The Foundation is currently involved with three ongoing initiatives: The Rudy Bruner Award, The Bruner Loeb Forum, and ongoing Effectiveness Initiatives.
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