For Richard Reiss Jr. ’66, P’06, improving access to education is a long-time passion. His philanthropic efforts on behalf of the educational nonprofit Prep for Prep were recognized on June 8 at the organization’s Lilac Ball. President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and his wife Gail Gentes '77a attended the event to recognize the work Reiss and his wife Bonnie have done to help bring Prep for Prep students to Dartmouth and to strengthen the relationship between the organization and the College.
Founded in 1978, Prep for Prep offers some of the most talented students of color in New York City with 14 months of intensive academic coaching and placement in prestigious preparatory schools. The schools give financial support, while Prep for Prep offers continued counseling for the students. Prep for Prep then supports the students as they navigate the college-admissions process. As the students move through college and into their careers, they have access to a program that helps to match them with paid internships, essential for students who may not have the resources to work unpaid.
Reiss, the founder and chairman of Georgica Advisors, L.L.C., has been a supporter of the organization since the 1980s, when his daughter, then a student at The Brearly School, shared classes with the school’s first cohort of Prep for Prep students.
“In the eighties it was a big deal because there were very few minority students at the elite New York City private schools, and we thought the program was a great thing,” said Reiss. When his son attended Trinity, the private school that helped Prep for Prep to get its start, he became more involved. He has served on the Board of Trustees since 2001.
For Reiss, the choice to support Prep for Prep was an easy one. He explains that while he’s been on a number of nonprofit boards, Prep for Prep stands out for the way it is able to leverage its resources into broad impact.
A Natural Partnership
Dartmouth student Samantha Abreu ’16, a Prep for Prep graduate who attended Rye Country Day, explained that the rigorous academic preparation Prep for Prep provides in middle school “overprepared” her for the challenges of high school. “At Rye Country Day I was reading books that I had already read through Prep.” Abreu says the program also helped ease her transition from her public school in the Bronx to a new private school in suburban New York.
Having made that adjustment earlier, Abreu notes, made starting college more manageable. “Socially, it was tough at first, like starting college is for everybody,” she says, “but I had already made the transition from public school to private school.”
“Economic disparities create issues,” adds Reiss. “Part of Prep’s program is about dealing with culture shock. They focus on the strengths the students have and the opportunities they have been given.” He also notes that, “as a small program, Prep can be very hands on.”
A Home for Top Talent
Prep for Prep is particularly known for its extreme selectivity, admitting only 150 students out of 6,000 nominated each year. Its outcomes are equally impressive. More than 90 percent of Prep’s college graduates earn their degrees at the most competitive colleges in the country. Since 1992, 53 graduates have earned degrees at Dartmouth, an additional 11 are currently enrolled and four more are set to matriculate this fall.
Ed Boland, vice president for external affairs at Prep for Prep, notes that Prep for Prep and Dartmouth are natural partners. “I think there is a well-roundedness that is shared by both communities, which makes Prep students attracted to Dartmouth. The image so many of us have of the typical Dartmouth student is a student with strengths in many areas and a deep curiosity. Those are values that we share.”
Reiss is also quick to point out the ways in which his gifts to Prep for Prep tie in with his long history of giving to Dartmouth. “It strikes me that my simplistic approach to giving to not-for-profits in the educational sphere is that there are three essential elements: buildings and equipment, faculty, and students. I would have a lot of trouble getting close to a building or a room with my name on it, but getting to know real people and see how they develop is frankly more personal.”
Reiss formed this personal connection with Dartmouth students in 1994, when his wife endowed a scholarship in honor of his 50th birthday. The Reiss Family Scholarship fund now supports six students each year. Over the past decade, six Prep for Prep students, including Abreu, have also been Reiss Scholars.
"Since our first alum set foot on the Dartmouth campus in 1988, Prep for Prep and the college have enjoyed a rich partnership,” says Aileen Hefferren, CEO of Prep for Prep. “Our shared graduates – surgeons and architects, financiers and attorneys – are making great strides in the fields they chose to enter.”
A Life-Changing Experience
All six of the Prep for Prep alumni who were also Reiss Scholars at Dartmouth attended the Lilac Ball. They flew in from as far as Rome and Seattle to honor the impact that Reiss and Prep for Prep have made on their lives, Boland says. “They told me they wouldn’t miss it for the world – Rick’s involvement in their lives has really impacted them.”
Abreu agrees. “I can’t put a price on what Prep has done for me,” she says. “They turned everything around and gave us the resources to access opportunities.”
“The Prep for Prep students I’ve met who have gone on to Dartmouth have been really happy there and done great things,” Reiss says. “President Hanlon has learned a lot about the program, and the fact that he came to the Lilac Ball says a lot. I think he sees that the program is important, that these students have a lot to offer, and that the relationship between Prep for Prep and Dartmouth can get even stronger.”
By Rachel Hastings