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Few of us will soon forget the year 2020. Of course, for the country and the world, it was the year of COVID-19. But for those of us connected to the Apgar Foundation, it was the year in which Martha died.

On February 28, 2020, Martha Apgar passed away, leaving much of her modest estate to the Apgar Foundation.

Martha was a true believer in the idea of sunsetting foundations. Frequently, in the years before her death, she talked about wanting to accelerate the process and “just get rid of” her money. Incorporated in the Foundation bylaws is a provision that the Foundation spend out and close within five years of the settlement of Martha’s estate, and under no circumstances should the process take more than ten years.

The Foundation board has begun planning accordingly and anticipates increasing its annual giving in order to close within five years of Martha’s death, with final grants paid in 2024 or 2025.

During this year of COVID, foremost in our minds have been the many challenges and opportunities our grant-supported programs have been facing. Times of dramatic dislocation often lead to fear, fear which hijacks our thought processes, our values and our reason. We need to pause and allow reason to catch up. Mrs. Apgar strongly believed in the future of this country and would have seen COVID as a challenge. She would have expected Americans to rise to the occasion, with fortitude, compassion, and innovation.

Our grantees have been forced to innovate, and we are proud of the ways in which many of them have been able to continue their programming; we are also understanding of those who—often due to institutional mandates, have had to modify or delay their programming significantly while COVID shutdowns and restrictions continue.

Programs at the following universities received grants during 2020:
Abigail Adams Institute (Harvard University), American University, Arizona State University, Clemson University, Emporia State University, Louisiana State University, Middlebury College, MIT, University of Oklahoma, Utah Valley University, and Xavier University.

During 2020, a total of $394,000 were granted to eleven faculty programs at universities. Each program has had to explore the do’s and don’ts of the pandemic’s new educational paradigms. We are honored to work with faculty who saw continued “product delivery” with substantive, challenging content and engagement with online social events as a priority. At ASU, for example, two public lectures were moved off campus where larger rooms are available for social distancing and mask-wearing. Other reports from faculty have pointed out that in particular Great Books education, markedly in smaller classes, is perhaps surprisingly well-suited for online learning.

In addition, several faculty noted the refreshing interactions as a result of their substantive work in fulfilling their grant obligations. One professor, who used the time to develop workshops for faculty on his campus on how to incorporate Great Books into their courses, wrote, “We found we had more in common when debating ideas than when we spoke about pedagogy, much less other technical or administrative matters.” We hope such sentiments are widely felt, and are eager to allow others to replicate this experience. Below, please find examples of successful programs achieving the goals of the Apgar Foundation. They are chosen for their illustrative value:



At Middlebury College, the Apgar Foundation supports The Alexander Hamilton Forum. The Forum promotes the study of the American political thought and founding principles and is grounded in the assumption that the study of the foundations of American democracy aids in the cultivation of reflective citizenship. Students are offered a public lecture, debate, and dialogue series, as well as a student fellowship program. With more emphasis on dialogue and debate on campus, in the words of the director of the Forum: the capsule summary of the Hamilton Forum is to “normalize” questioning on campus - that is our purpose, and we call it education.


At the University of Oklahoma, the Apgar Foundation supports Monuments of the Western Tradition. Housed within the Department of Classics and Letters, the Letters major allows undergraduates to construct a program of study in the humanities by combining courses from their home department with those from other departments across the College of Arts and Sciences. OU faculty associated with the department are developing a freshman and sophomore program in the major works of the Western tradition. The initial two-course sequence on literature will run from the ancient world to the present. The sequence is entitled “Lost in the Cosmos: Meaning, Purpose and the Self in the Western Literary Tradition.” The organizing theme will be the big existential concerns that confront all of us, whatever our heritage or individual circumstances. Program courses will carry the prefix “LTRS,” meaning that they will count towards major and minor degrees in Letters, buttress the Letters brand, and reinvigorate its mission to cultivate a cross-cultural, transhistorical approach to essential texts and ideas.


At Emporia State University Apgar Foundation supports the Koch Center for Leadership and Ethics. General support is provided to the Center’s program areas which all promote an appreciation for the morality of free enterprise and principled entrepreneurship. Through its Adam Smith Club the Center attract students and directly engages them via sponsored movie nights, book club meetings, a lunch-and-learn group on a monthly basis, as well as roundtable discussions.


At Xavier University Apgar Foundation supports The Stephen S. Smith Center – Smith Scholars Program. The Smith Scholars Program is an undergraduate, cohort honors program. Created in 2018, it integrates the study of the liberal arts with the Williams College of Business (WCB) core curriculum in a rigorous, purposeful, and innovative way. The Program emphasizes the study of foundational texts based on a Great Books model. This unique cohort of Smith Scholars studies a range of courses in both the business and liberal arts curriculum thereby immersing themselves in the study of the foundational texts of western philosophy, history, and economics. The program begins in the first semester with the study of ancient philosophy and literature. The students subsequently study political philosophy and constitutionalism, including foundational texts in political economy and law. A rigorous examination of economic theory and its applications, the legal and regulatory environment of business, and the financial markets that integrate these forces prepare Smith Scholars well to see the ideas behind creating win-win outcomes in the market and life.