son of Thomas Alva Edison, Charles Edison was Secretary of the Navy, Governor
of New Jersey and a nationally recognized corporate executive. He died
July 31, 1969, three days shy of his seventy-ninth birthday.
What is now the Charles
Edison Fund was incorporated by Mr. Edison on March 3, 1948 as The Brook
Foundation (the "Brook"). His choice of the name was prompted by his recollection
of a Sunday School song from the days of his childhood.
Written by Lucy Wheelock,
a pioneer in kindergarten education, the song carried these words:
the little brook,
Give, oh give - give, oh give
Give, said the little brook,
Oh give, oh give away
I am little
I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give, I give.
I am little I know, but wherever I go
I give, I give away.
Giving, giving all the day;
Give, oh give, oh give away.
Giving, giving all the day,
I give, I give away.
The Brook name was retained
until shortly after Mr. Edison's passing at which time the Trustees renamed
it the Charles Edison Fund. In this description, the word Fund also applies to the period
when the name was the Brook.
Charles Edison's Motivation
Mr. Edison was fifty-eight
when he created the Fund. Motivating this action was his desire to disassociate
insofar as possible his personal philanthropies from the vagaries of year-to-year
fluctuations in the economy which, almost invariably in the past, had
influenced his level of giving to the many deserving causes to which he
was a contributor. This was no idle fancy on his part because, virtually
simultaneously, he instituted a similar system within Thomas A. Edison,
Incorporated, the company he headed and of which he was the majority stockholder.
His Theory and Goals
Since organizations dependent
on charitable contributions have budgetary problems comparable to those
confronting individuals and for-profit corporations, it is equally important
for recipient charities to be able to estimate annual levels of giving
by their benefactors. Mr. Edison, therefore, decided he would build up
a surplus in the Fund, funnel much of his personal philanthropies through
it, and thereby make it possible to maintain his level of giving in bad
as well as good years.
This was his short-range
goal. His long-range goal, however, was that of creating an institution
capable of carrying on after his passing. A childless widower at the time
of death, Mr. Edison bequeathed the bulk of his multi-million-dollar estate
to the Fund.
In addition to assisting
other qualified organizations financially, the Fund operates two substantial
public sector programs on its own.