History and Vision

History of the Needham Education Foundation

In 1990, a group of alumni from Needham High School had just celebrated their 50th class reunion and were looking for a way to leave a legacy to their hometown. The Needham Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Frederick Tirrell, issued a challenge: provide seed money for a foundation that will raise funds in order to stimulate and support innovative educational programs in the public school system.

The Class of 1939 accepted this challenge with passion. They parlayed a small class gift of just $3,000 into a foundation that has awarded hundreds of grants totaling over $3 million. By the time Needham children complete their high school career, they have been impacted by NEF-supported programs many, many times.

We promote innovation. We seek out and fund programs that are beyond normal and expected public funding. We fund leading-edge projects in math and science, languages and the arts, emerging technologies, social development, and more. At a time when public funds are scarce and resources are increasingly limited, NEF’s grants for innovation provide an important outlet for teachers, parents, and students to learn, experiment, and explore.

Today, that is our passion.

The Vision

The vision of the original NEF Board of Directors was to establish a Sustaining Fund that would allow for annual grant funding from the investment returns. As needs have grown in the school district, the NEF typically grants 4% of the Sustaining Fund annually in addition to funds raised through an Annual Appeal, a town-wide Trivia Bee, as well as the NEF Gratitude Cards program. In total, the NEF grants around $100,000 per year to the Needham Public Schools.

“Children represent the future for all of us. We must pass on the legacy that you should never stop learning.”

Ralph Leader

Founder and First President, Needham Education Foundation; Retired Major General, Massachusetts Air National Guard; Winner of the Needham High School Distinguished Alumnus Award, Needham High School, Class of 1939

Our Mission

The Needham Education Foundation raises funds and awards grants to promote innovation and excellence in education for Needham public school students. By funding leading-edge programs that are outside of normal and expected public funding, the NEF enhances the curriculum and provides an important means for teachers, parents and students to learn, experiment and explore.

Statement in Support of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Needham Education Foundation (NEF) strongly supports a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, with a focus on the Needham Public Schools.

The NEF supports the Needham Unite Against Racism Initiative (NUARI) vision statement and is committed to: 

  • Working collaboratively with the Needham Public Schools to fund their efforts towards a just, equitable, and antiracist school community.
  • Identifying and changing our current policies, procedures, practices, and cultural norms to provide more inclusive access to opportunities.
  • Supporting community learning opportunities around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the schools.
  • Seeking diversity in our board membership and supporting respectful dialogue and difficult conversations within our organization.

Learn how the NEF is supporting the school district’s DEI efforts through a new multi-year Collaborative Initiative.