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Lewis Cullman, 100 years old, dies on June 8, 2019
Founder, Board Chair Emeritus, of Chess in the Schools p>
Lewis B. Cullman made his fortune in the world of business and proceeded to invest it all back into the cultural fabric of New York City nonprofit institutions and the futures of low-income youth. He believed that philanthropists should focus on putting the vast bulk of their money into work that makes a difference. Over his lifetime, Cullman donated half a billion dollars to causes he cared about in the arts, and social services — you’ll see his name on the walls of many of New York’s premier cultural organizations.
His philanthropic passion reached its apex in creating Chess in the Schools (CIS) in 1986. “I believe that, given the opportunity, every child has the power to both improve succeed in life and help others,” said Cullman. “But I also believe that many children are not given that opportunity.”
Cullman saw chess instruction as a unique way to build the intellectual and social capacity of economically-disadvantaged youth. He believed that compassionate and experienced educators could provide a stimulating and enjoyable way to develop logical and critical thinking skills, patience, concentration, sportsmanship, and self-esteem in youth.
More than half a million low-income public school students in New York City have benefitted from Cullman’s vision, participating in year-long chess instruction, tournaments, or in CIS’s College Bound program. Some alumni are now highly ranked nationally and internationally in the chess world. Many others have leveraged their chess skills into college and career success.
“Chess changes lives and Lewis changed more lives through chess than anyone in the history of New York City,” said Debbie Eastburn, CIS’s President & CEO. “Lewis Cullman’s legacy will live on in the brighter futures of our students and alumni. Now that’s an extraordinary return on investment!”