Ellen Burstyn’s Lasting Legacy as a Philanthropist for the Art of Acting

Ellen Burstyn has attained the pinnacle of success in the entertainment world. She has received numerous accolades including an Academy Award, a Tony Award, and two Primetime Emmy Awards. She is one of only 24 people who have won all three awards, known as the “Triple Crown” of acting.

Ellen Burstyn (Image credit: Marco Grub)

And Ellen Burstyn is also a philanthropist. Her most lasting legacy may not be so much about what awards what she has gotten, but what she has given back. Burstyn has been a member of the Actors Studio in New York City for most of her life and has been a co-president of the Actors Studio for over twenty years. She was instrumental in founding the Actors Studio Master’s program, an MFA degree track (currently hosted at Pace University) that offers tracks in Acting, Directing, and Playwriting for promising young artists.

At 90 years old, Ellen is still incredibly active and currently serves as the co-president of the Actors Studio in New York City, which has launched the careers of people like Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. It’s a labor of love for Ellen, and she recently reprised her role in the Exorcist franchise to fund a $1 million scholarship fund for the studio’s MFA. Burstyn wanted the fund to be specifically geared towards assisting BIPOC artists. She chose an independent partner in FJC – A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds, with a history of creating custom philanthropic programs like this one.

As Ellen herself tells the story: 

“I became a philanthropist last year, and I owe my newfound role as a grantmaker to my decision to appear in the Exorcist sequel. Since I appeared in the original “The Exorcist” film in 1973, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been offered roles in sequels. This time, I was offered it again—for a lot of money—and I said no. They came back and doubled the offer. But something told me, “Don’t say no too fast.” I closed my eyes, and the next thought that came to my mind was, “The devil is asking my price.” And my price is a scholarship program for the Masters in Fine Arts program of The Actors Studio, currently at Pace University.”

The Actors Studio is a membership organization for professional actors, theater directors and playwrights. The studio is best known for its work refining and teaching method acting. While at the Studio, actors work together to develop their skills in a private environment where they can take risks as performers without the pressure of commercial roles. Women givers like Ellen Burstyn are adding to the powerful strategies that enrich our theater arts across the country.

And now, on to this week’s feminist giving news.

One: Australian State Will Use Govt to Address Pay Gap, Name 70% of New Streets After Women

In Australia, the State Government of Victoria is committing to a program to increase gender equity and equality. The goal is to reduce the pay gap between men and women, increase women in leadership and encourage men to take parental leave.

The Victoria public sector will be directed to cut the pay gap between men and women in half, and reach gender parity in senior leadership positions within five years. A target to double the number of men taking available paid parental leave in the public sector within five years has also been set.

Natalie Hutchins, Victoria’s minister for women, says the state’s first gender equality action plan includes 110 commitments in a range of areas including education, economic participation, health and safety.

In addition, the state of Victoria will name 70% of new roads, placemames, amd landmarks after women, as well as erecting more statues of women. The purpose of these initiatives is to raise the awareness of the crucial role women play in civil society.

The state government has also promised to break down gender barriers at school by addressing barriers to girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects, and boys’ participation in subjects such as textiles and food technology. Men across will be encouraged to take on more caring roles such as taking parental leave.

For the full article, follow the link below:


Two: Coca Cola Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs in Nigeria   

The Coca-Cola Foundation (TCCF) has provided funding to International NGO, Women In Africa (WIA), to support Nigerian female entrepreneurs through their initiative- JAMII Femmes.

The initiative was launched in 2022 across Nigeria, Kenya, and Ivory Coast. Its goal is to accelerate 14,000 African women entrepreneurs over two years through funding, business incubation, mentorship, and new networking opportunities. Jamii Femmes has fostered a powerful economic transformation on the continent.

Speaking about the initiative, Saadia Madsbjerg, President of The Coca-Cola Foundation, underscored the Foundation’s unwavering mission to create positive change within every community the company serves.

She stated, “Our objective is to generate tangible and enduring impact at the local level, and the JAMII Femmes initiative exemplifies such outstanding achievements across the African continent”.

For additional information, please see the full article below:

Three: Gender Lens Strategy: Teach Women to Play Poker

Even though more women than men get bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and Ph.D. degrees, boardrooms and executive positions are still dominated by men. Erin Lydon has a novel idea to change those numbers by encouraging women to play Poker. 

Erin Lydon is president of Poker Power, an organization with the goal of teaching 1 million women and girls around the world how to play the game. She joined Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal to talk about what poker teaches a player and how that can be applied in a career. 

While the game may be poker,” Lydon explains, “…it’s really the game of life. And through playing this game, you will learn how to problem solve with imperfect information. You’ll learn how to get more comfortable taking risk. You’ll learn how to bet and bluff. And these are all really key leadership skills…” At Poker Power, we know there’s a strong connection between success, money ownership, and playing every hand, like a winning poker player.

There is a body of research on financial firms where poker is part of the culture. The Federal Reserve published an article stating that you will be a better trader, if you learn to think like a poker player. Poker Power plans to do additional research to create some hard data on the subject by running several studies with top universities to explore this connection.

An edited transcript of the conversation between Kai Ryssdal and Erin Lydon can be found below:

The link to the Poker Power website:

Four: Vassar College Gender Pay Lawsuit

As classes begin across higher education, most of the women full professors at Vassar College spoke out about long-standing pay discrimination. Women professors at Vassar have attempted for at least 15 years to work discreetly and collaboratively with the College to remedy the gender pay gap, but the College has ignored the problem.

As a result, five plaintiffs and an additional 35 women full professor supporters filed a class action lawsuit against the College. The lawsuit claims pervasive and long-standing gender-based disparities in pay between Vassar’s male and female full professors. In addition, the lawsuit states that Vassar has taken steps to decrease the level of pay transparency in recent years, in an apparent attempt to mask the disparity.

The professors allege that Vassar has known for years that it unlawfully pays men more than women, and has for years refused to adequately address the discrimination. Vassar is one of the Seven Sisters, a group of historically women’s colleges founded on the promise of gender equity.

“It’s unfortunate we have to be here today, but standing up for the rights of women is part of why these professors came to teach at Vassar in the first place,” said Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director and Deputy Legal Director at Equal Rights Advocates and co-counsel representing the plaintiffs.

The full story and a copy of the lawsuit, along with the statement of the 35 supporters affirming the pattern of pay discrimination at Vassar and expressing their support for the class action, can be found here.

Five: Mackenzie Scott Has donated $14 Billion in 3 Years 

Mackenzie Scott is able to donate on a scale that few others are able to match, and even fewer are attempting.

According to Chronicle of Philanthropy, so far this year, 17 nonprofits have announced they’ve received unrestricted donations from Scott through her Yield Giving fund. The gifts total $97 million and range from $1 million to $15 million. Nearly half went to charities focused on early-childhood education and early-childhood development. Scott has now given more than $14.1 billion to at least 1,621 charities since 2020.

Mackenzie Scott no longer announces her gifts. She leaves the decision to go public with the information to the recipient. This way, Scott hopes to keep herself in the background and focus on the charity and the work it does.

For individual recipients, there pros and cons to consider. While officials wanted to announce the gift to show that a high-profile philanthropist like Scott has faith in their mission and its ability to manage a gift of that size, there are concerns that other donors might think Scott’s gift provided all the money it needs to carry out its mission.

The National Housing Trust (NHT) chose to go public, after the affordable housing group landed a $10 million gift from Scott last month, its largest donation to date.

“It was in our best interest to announce this donation and to share the victory with our peers in the movement,” says Sean McCarthy, who manages donor relations at the NHT. “We view this gift as a vote of confidence.”

Patricia Lozano, executive director of Early Edge California, an early-childhood education advocacy group, had similar reasons for wanting to publicize the $3 million gift the organization received this summer.

“It was a win for Early Edge to be recognized, and it’s the first time in our history that we got a gift of this size,” Lozano says. “It was a recognition of our work and all our successes. Our work is very specifically around advocacy, so we thought it would be a good thing for us to show our funders and possible partners that we’re trusted and recognized.”

Scott launched Yield Giving’s website in December to answer the nonprofit world’s call for more transparency. The site names groups that received gifts and, in some cases, the amount they got. But it hasn’t been updated since last year, so it’s unclear exactly how many gifts she has made this year. “Philanthropy as a whole would benefit from more knowledge about the organizations getting the grants and why they’re getting them,” says Joanne Florino, a Philanthropy Roundtable official who advises donors and foundations.

For the full article in Fortune Magazine, use this link:



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