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June 21, 2022

$35M gift from historic family fortune benefits New Haven nonprofits

PHOTO | Contributed William W. Ginsberg

A family fortune that has been helping New Haven causes for nearly a century will boost four local nonprofits in its latest incarnation:  A $35 million gift from the estate of James Dana English.

A former librarian at Quinnipiac University, English gave the sum as a bequest to the The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, which will set up an endowment to support the Clifford Beers Community Care Center, the Neighborhood Music School, the New Haven Museum and New Haven Symphony Orchestra. 

The English bequest is the largest outright gift ever received by the Community Foundation. 

President and CEO William W. Ginsberg said, “The James D. English gift is one of the most extraordinary acts of philanthropy in our community’s history. Mr. English’s choice of these four organizations as the beneficiaries of this generosity reflects his confidence in how each of us can make life better for the residents of Greater New Haven far into the future.”

English, who died in 2021, was the latest member of his family to serve the New Haven community. His great-grandfather, a businessperson, property owner and investor in New Haven, served two terms as Connecticut governor and as a member of Congress, cast an important vote in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery.

Subsequent generations held important roles in bodies like the New Haven Board of Education,  the New Haven Colony Historical Society and the Proprietors Committee for the New Haven Green.

“The English family’s multi-generational community contributions and philanthropy are without equal in the history of our community,” Ginsberg said. 

Over 76 years, the English family established a total of six funds at the Community Foundation, with an estimated value of approximately $70.8 million. Grants to the community over the years from the funds have exceeded $11.4 million.

Contact Liese Klein at

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