Since its founding in 1959, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation has contributed over one hundred five million dollars to charitable organizations, principally in the New York City area. Historically, it has supported programs to improve and expand educational opportunities and the delivery of health and social services for children, youth, and families in low income neighborhoods. In 2013, the Foundation made a grant of $25 million to The City University of New York (CUNY) to support CUNY’s community colleges. The New Community College was then renamed Stella and Charles Guttman Community College in honor of this gift.
Charles and Stella Guttman lived the “American Dream.” He was the first American-born son of an immigrant family that arrived in New York City from Jassy, Romania, in the late 1880s. Raised on the Lower East Side, Guttman’s family life was not secure. His mother died when he was a toddler, and his father was unable to provide steady income to support the family. Charles left school when he was in his early teens. Stella Rappaport Guttman was also the first-born American child to immigrant parents. Her parents and older siblings arrived in New York from Russia in 1891, and they, too, settled in the Lower East Side. The Guttmans were married in 1918; they never had children.
Charles Guttman’s wealth derived from the success of the Paddington Corporation, which he started in 1937. Over the course of the next few decades, he became known as one of the most skillful and successful liquor entrepreneurs in New York. In partnership with a British company, Guttman created J&B Scotch, and he had exclusive rights to import it to America. By the early 1960’s, J&B was one of the top brands in the liquor industry.
Charles and Stella’s interest in philanthropy was serious and heartfelt. He seeded their foundation by taking his private company public in 1959, and until his death in 1969, he continually sold their personal shares to support the foundation’s gift giving. Its first significant gift was to the Henry Street Settlement, a Lower East Side charitable institution that had played an important role in his own difficult childhood. The Guttman Foundation provided the funds for a new building for the organization. When the gift was announced in November 1961, Charles Guttman was quoted as saying, “While it does not even the score, at least it serves to mark a memory that helped open a poor boy’s eyes to the possibilities of life in America.” In its early years, the Guttman Foundation also funded medical research, supporting, among other projects, research for breast cancer treatment.
The directors of the Guttman Foundation are grateful for the opportunity to continue the charitable legacy of Charles and Stella Guttman—a legacy that has, at its heart, the ethic of people helping others in need. Beginning in 2014, the Stella and Charles Guttman Foundation has directed a substantial portion of its grant making to early childhood programs that serve low-income infants, toddlers and preschoolers as they transition to kindergarten. Special emphasis is placed on programs that improve quality, expand services, and create a strong continuum of care for children ages 0-3 in high-need neighborhoods. Systemic investment in early care and education includes expansion of evidence-based home visiting programs; early childhood health and mental health initiatives; and professional development of center-based staff as well as child care providers.