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Taconic Foundation records (FA407)

Biographical/Historical Note

Philanthropists Stephen R. Currier and his wife Audrey Bruce Currier established the Taconic Foundation in 1958.

Stephen Richard Currier, born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1930, was the son of Richard and Mary Prue Currier. His father, who was descended from the family of the lithographer Nathaniel Currier, was a painter. Currier's parents divorced in 1936. His mother, an editor for Vogue magazine, married the prominent arts patron Edward M. M. Warburg in 1939. Stephen Currier was educated at St. Bernard's School and Horace Mann–Lincoln School in New York and the George School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He enrolled at Harvard in 1948.

Audrey Bruce Currier, born in 1933 to the diplomat David Bruce and his wife Ailsa Mellon Bruce, was the first grandchild of Andrew W. Mellon. The Bruces separated in the early 1940s and divorced in 1945. Audrey attended the Brearley School and the Foxcroft School, and enrolled at Radcliffe in 1952, from which she graduated in 1956.

Audrey and Stephen met while students at Harvard and Radcliffe and married in November 1955. After Audrey's graduation, they settled in New York. They had three children: Andrea Bruce Currier, Lavinia McClendon Currier, and Michael Stephen Currier.

Audrey and Stephen both hailed from wealthy families, and they received a steady flow of income from the Mellon family trust. Private and personally reticent (Audrey, in particular, was extremely shy), they created the Taconic Foundation in 1958 with a goal of channeling their giving toward areas neglected by other foundations and where they could have the greatest impact. Creating equality of opportunity — in education, housing, employment, and civil rights — became the new foundation's enduring mission. The foundation initially limited its grantmaking to the New York City area and New England, where it focused particularly on issues of child welfare and mental illness. The focus soon evolved into a broader concern with race relations, legal reform, and civil rights. Stephen Currier became a crucial mediator between the Federal government and civil rights leaders. The Taconic Foundation was instrumental in bringing civil rights organizations together in support of the Voter Education Project, and through the foundation Steven Currier launched the Potomac Institute and Urban America to bring attention and research to bear on problems of racial justice, equal opportunity, and the urban crisis.

In January 1967, Audrey and Stephen Currier perished when their plane disappeared in the Caribbean. John G. Simon, president of the Taconic Foundation, and his wife Claire, good friends of the Curriers, took guardianship of the Currier children.

The Taconic Foundation continued on course for some forty-five years after the Curriers' disappearance, closing up in 2013. Equality of opportunity remained its central priority, even as its program areas evolved to focus on issues of housing rights and affordable housing, community and economic development, and youth employment.

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