November 2019, after nine weeks of restoration, the lions were revealed looking refreshed and ready to roar for many years to come.
This grant is one of many in the storied partnership between the library, the company and New York Life Foundation, which can be traced back to the 1940’s.
“Patience and Fortitude, the New York Public Library's famed marble lions, share a history that is compatible with our own. They have stood strong through the city’s most incredible highs and the lowest of lows." -Heather Nesle, President, New York Life Foundation.
In the beginning
The New York Life/NYPL partnership dates back over 75 years (our Foundation was founded in 1979). One of the earliest references to this partnership was a 1943 Victory Book Campaign, where New York Life employees collected 9,000 books, which were dropped off at the NYPL and sent to U.S. soldiers. While this wasn’t a direct donation from New York Life, it speaks to a collaborative spirit that has continued to this day.
The New York Life Foundation and countless New Yorkers donated to the New York Public Library (NYPL) to refurbish the main branch’s guardian lions, named Patience and Fortitude by former mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. These iconic lion statues have stood watch at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building since 1911 and have become international symbols for equal access to knowledge and information. In New York Life was able to assist the NYPL’s fundraising efforts through the ranks of our leaders. Henry Bruere, chairman of the board of the Bower Savings Bank and a director of New York Life, served as chairman of the NYPL’s 1950 annual appeal campaign. Meanwhile, New York Life president and chairman Devereux C. Josephs (president 1948-1954 and chairman 1954-1959) became a trustee of the NYPL in 1952. He spearheaded the library’s annual fundraising efforts from 1953 through at least 1960.
By the numbers
In all, the New York Life Foundation has given 66 grants that amount to more than 3.1 million dollars. Many of these grants have a direct impact on the lives of students and youth across the New York area:
The Schomburg Center Junior Scholars Program
The New York Life Foundation gave a $2.3 million grant to support the Schomburg Center's Junior Scholars program which educates African American youth on African American culture and history.
Summer Reading Program—Reaching beyond New York City
The New York Life Foundation is also a strong supporter of the Summer Reading Program, which involves not just the New York Public Library but the Brooklyn and Queens Library as well. The recent $1 million grant to the library system helps develop or strengthen summer reading programs, with a focus on middle school students and impacts more than 500,000 children and teens across all boroughs.
“We know that children and teens count on our libraries to discover and grow during the out-of-school hours year-round, and summer offers especially meaningful opportunities,” -Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott.
We look forward to working with the NYPL in the years to come. Next time you walk by Patience and Fortitude, the felines that guard the NYPL, remember that they aren’t just the gatekeepers to information, but they represent the strong partnership between the library and the New York Life
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