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(Photo courtesy Unsplash)

ERASE Racism Announces $200,000 Grant From Rauch Foundation

Scholarship in memory of its long-time Board Member and Sea Cliff resident John Wenzel

Laura Harding, President of ERASE Racism, based in Syosset, announced that the Rauch Foundation has made a $200,000 commemorative grant to ERASE Racism in memory of the Foundation’s longstanding Board Member John Wenzel, who died in late 2023. A resident of Sea Cliff, NY, on Long Island for more than 50 years, Wenzel was a member of ERASE Racism’s Advisory Committee.
With the funding, ERASE Racism will create two vital initiatives: a first-ever endowment for the organization, with this grant being used to challenge other donors to match it; and, a scholarship in John Wenzel’s name awarded annually to a deserving high school senior on Long Island exemplifying ERASE Racism’s commitment to racial justice. The funding will, therefore, support two passionate concerns of John Wenzel: the long-term fiscal strength of ERASE Racism; and, annual assistance to a deserving student in pursuing ongoing educational opportunities.

The Rauch Foundation has made a $200,000 commemorative grant to ERASE Racism in memory of the Foundation’s longstanding Board Member John Wenzel, who died in late 2023.
(Photo courtesy ERASE Racism)

“ERASE Racism is greatly honored by this generous grant from the Rauch Foundation in honor of John Wenzel,” said ERASE Racism President Laura Harding. “John’s commitment to ERASE Racism, and this grant’s reflection of it, will have a catalytic effect in his name on both the near-term needs of students and our ongoing efforts to eliminate racial injustice and achieve educational equity.”
Wenzel, who turned 100 in April of 2023 and passed away in October, was associated with the Rauch family business from its earliest beginnings. After returning home in 1945 from Europe, where he served as a fighter pilot in the Italian front, he graduated from Swarthmore College and ended up working for David Rockefeller at Chase Manhattan Bank. When Chase asked him to relocate abroad, he made a career move and answered an ad for a position with the Ideal Corporation, a small Brooklyn manufacturing company founded by Philip Rauch Sr. in 1913. Over the years, Wenzel became president of Ideal and senior vice president at Parker Hannifin, the company that bought Ideal in 1971.
When the Rauch Foundation was established in 1961, John was a trusted advisor to the Board of Directors, who benefited greatly from John’s insight and wisdom. According to the Rauch Foundation’s Board Chair Nancy Rauch Douzinas, who worked closely with John, “his social passion was racial injustice and his voice consistently argued for improving the lives of Black Long Islanders and, in particular, the education of young children. At Ideal he took pride in being a mentor and helping to further the careers of talented, young, Black and Hispanic employees. Though he himself was a product of private schools, he argued forcibly that the best way to equalize opportunity and improve the education system would be to do away with all private schools. He believed that consolidating Long Island school districts would help to bring about integration on Long Island, not only in the schools, but in housing and communities. Equality was his most important issue, and he always made his opinion known.”
One of the Rauch Foundation’s grant partners with which John was particularly involved was ERASE Racism. Founder and President Emeritus of ERASE Racism Elaine Gross remembers John’s commitment to ERASE Racism’s work and his involvement on our Advisory Committee: “I thoroughly enjoyed working with John. He was a person who lived his values and truly sought to make the world a better place for all people. He believed in Long Island, which many consider to be America’s first suburb, and its potential to become a model for the rest of the country. We are moved that the Rauch Foundation has selected ERASE Racism to receive this commemorative grant, and I am confident the organization will do everything it can to honor John’s memory.”
On the occasion of John’s 100th birthday, the New York Times featured a picture of John on the front page of the Metro section. The accompanying article spoke about his life, primarily his experience as a World War II fighter pilot who, after enlisting at 19 years old, went on to earn two Purple Hearts for extraordinary bravery and service to the country. As the article reveals, John never spoke of that period of his life, but, as he neared the end, he was overcome by sudden vivid nightmares that led him to a therapist who encouraged him to open up about his war-time experience.
—Submitted by ERASE Racism

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