Established in 1963 by Rudy Bruner and his wife Martha, the Bruner Foundation has influenced policy and practices over its history in health care delivery, holocaust studies, education, and non-profit evaluation, and broadened understanding of urban excellence and development in American cities.

Building collaborative partnerships, leveraging resources and tackling complex societal issues are the common threads of the Bruner Foundation’s history. In its early years, the foundation supported innovative programs that challenged existing social patterns and introduced new models of practice. More recently it has developed innovative programs of its own that have influenced and established new standards of practice in their respective fields.

The Bruner Foundation’s first focus was the inequality of health care delivery across sectors of society, including the shortage of physicians and nurses available to low income households in the New York City area. The foundation invested in programs that led to the creation and training for a new type of position, the “para-physician” or “physician assistant,” that could deliver basic medical services under supervision of a doctor, thereby expanding medical care in poorly served areas.

The Bruner Foundation also supported projects in the New York City public schools which explored the relationship between health care and the educational performance of students. These established important correlations between health, education, and learning, and helped to 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 Bruner Foundation became a leader in the emerging field of nonprofit evaluation. Its initial application involved programs designed for the elderly. Related work examined the effect of programs that increased inter-generational interactions between seniors and adolescents and helped to pioneer new approaches to teaching, including the integration of geriatric medicine into the training curriculum of health personnel at George Washington University Medical Center.

The Bruner Foundation is committed to Jewish religion and culture, and has been instrumental in promoting the field of holocaust studies. The foundation assisted the Anti-Defamation League of New York with the creation of a Holocaust Information and Teaching Center. This resulted in 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 and has been integrated into curricula offered through programs like Facing History and Ourselves.

In the 1980s the Bruner Foundation continued to advance its expertise in nonprofit evaluation through continued involvement with education and the New York public schools, helping to create new methodologies for measuring the effectiveness of a variety of educational programs. The foundation developed an interview-based evaluation model to examine whether direct involvement with artists in the schools supported artistic development in children.

Over time, the Bruner Foundation shifted its focus and resources from grantmaking to a series of core programs. These include the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence, Evaluative Thinking (formerly referred to as Effectiveness Initiatives) and the Bruner Loeb Forum.