On February 6, 1867, the Peabody Fund was established to promote education in Southern states. The idea became a priority after the devastating loss caused by the American Civil War. George Peabody, the man with the brains and the funds to do it, considered giving these funds for construction, endowments, scholarships, teachers, and industrial education to newly freed slaves. He wanted to help elementary education by strengthening existing schools.
George Peabody was a self-made man. He came from humble beginnings and became a prominent banker and a patron of education.
The George Peabody Trust devised a system that provided challenge grants to local communities. They sought out places where there were sufficient numbers of students and cooperative public officials who would combine the small grant with tax money to build schools. The fund was left without restriction in the hands of the trustees so they could manage it. They also had the power to close the trust after 30 years but they had to prove that ⅔ of the fund had been distributed to educational institutions in Southern states.
Education: a debt due from the present to future generations.George Peabody
The regulations of the Peabody Education Fund were strict but allowed the distribution of an estimated $80,000 per year for a period of 30 years. By the time the fund terminated, in 1898, around $2.5 million dollars had been distributed.
In 1875, the trustees of the Peabody Education Fund founded the Peabody Normal School of the South. It was an institution that trained high school graduates to become teachers. The name later changed to Peabody Normal College (1875-1911) and maintained ties with the University of Nashville. It was supported by annual donations from the Peabody Education Fund. Later, in 1910, the Peabody College for Teachers was organized. By 1979, it had become the Peabody College of Education and Human Development, one of 10 colleges and schools that comprises Vanderbilt University.
In 1915, the Peabody Education Fund ceased to exist. However, by the end of the second decade of the 20th century, there was an increase in the number of schools in Southern communities, due to the efforts of the Peabody Fund as well as the Slater Fund, the Jeanes Fund, and the General Education Board.
The Southern Education Foundation was created in 1937 as a nonprofit foundation with the help of the Peabody Education Fund, the John F. Slater Fund, the Negro Rural School Fund, and the Virginia Randolph Fund.
George Peabody was one of the 29 first honorees who made it to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. He also has a statue that can be admired near the Royal Exchange in London, United Kingdom.
George Peabody is considered a Champion as well as the Father of Modern Philanthropy. His legacy as a man who wanted to improve society, who believed in the value of education and wanted to provide the underserved communities with means to help them better themselves, lives on.
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