The Hertz Foundation: A Historical Sketch

Our Founder, John Daniel Hertz, was an Austrian emigrant who came to the United States and lived the American Dream. He arrived from Europe as a very poor young boy and matured into a prominent man of many accomplishments, most notably as a leader in the advent of the automotive age.

Throughout his life, he reiterated his appreciation for the opportunities which this land afforded him for the achievement of success in business and finance, as well as for the attainment of leadership in the avocation of his and Mrs. Hertz’s choice – the breeding and racing of outstanding horses. These opportunities, he often stated, would have been denied him in the land of his birth.

He expressed his gratitude in many ways, but the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation, representing one of the culminating activities of his life, was perhaps the most eloquent and enduring. It was designed to fulfill a need which Mr. Hertz sensed long before Sputnik: this nation, in order to survive, prosper, and lead, had to increase substantially the ranks of its most competent engineers and applied scientists. He felt that the Foundation could perform a notable service to the nation by fostering the education and training of outstanding students in these areas, and, in the spirit of the country which he revered, by doing it without discrimination by reason of race/color, creed, sex or geographical origin. The wish of Mr. Hertz, in establishing the Foundation, was to enhance the technological stature of the United States.

In 1957, the Fannie and John Hertz Foundation was formed with the goal of supporting applied sciences education. This was originally accomplished by granting undergraduate scholarships on a national scale to qualified and financially-limited mechanical and electrical engineering students undertaking a curriculum fully accredited by the Engineering Council for Professional Development.

In 1963, a special committee of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, after consultation with a large number of distinguished engineering and science educators throughout the United States, recommended a major modification in the Foundation’s program. The Foundation, in accordance with the recommendation of this committee, decided to phase out the national undergraduate scholarship program, and adopted in its place a plan for the granting of postgraduate fellowships leading to the award of the Ph.D. At that time, the scope of the studies to be supported by Fellowships was enlarged to include both the fields of engineering and applied sciences, with special emphasis placed on physical sciences and the stimulation of exceptional competence and innovation-oriented development in these fields.

The Foundation’s Board of Directors believes Mr. Hertz’s purpose is most effectively accomplished by supporting the graduate studies of excellent young men and women. We attempt to select Hertz Fellows who will become leaders in applied scientific and technological advances, exemplars of teaching skills in the applied physical sciences, and key contributors to the advancement of national technological capabilities on which the long-term well-being of the United States largely depends. We hold an annual, national competition for Hertz Foundation graduate fellowships as a means of identifying these future leaders and offering them our support.