Vassar College and Smith College Expand Efforts to Recruit and Prepare Teachers for Urban Schools Through $6M Initiative in Memory of Dan Mindich

NEW YORK - Propel Capital is providing lead funding of $3.5m to inspire liberal arts students to enter the education profession and expand programs engaging urban communities through public schools.  Along with family and friends, Propel will honor the memory of Dan Mindich with a gift of $2.25 million to Vassar College and $1.25 million to Smith College, $1.25 million of which will be matched through additional fundraising by each institution. 

Mindich was a high school teacher and lifelong educator who graduated from Vassar in 1987 before going on to earn a master’s and doctorate in education from Stanford University and building collaborative, collegial communities for teachers. He died while swimming in an open water race in the Pacific Ocean near his home in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sept. 1, 2014.

As part of his research, Dan Mindich identified the ongoing need for high-quality teachers, particularly in urban schools, who are both well trained and enthusiastic about teaching. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 25 percent of new public school teachers leave the profession within the first three years, while 50% of new teachers in urban schools leave within the first five years. Research, including Dan’s, shows that improved preparation and collegial support for teachers are key factors in developing and sustaining highly skilled educators.

Smith and Vassar’s programs prioritize in-classroom experience and access to mentors for students interested in the profession, as well as training that specifically addresses the needs of the local schools and communities where graduates will likely be employed. 

At Vassar the gift will be used to support the Vassar College Urban Education Initiative (VCUEI). The VCUEI provides tutors, mentors and other assistance to students in Poughkeepsie public schools. The gift will also fund an annual Dan Mindich Prize, which will go to a Vassar senior “for outstanding achievement and future promise in the field of education.” 

At Smith, the gift will be used to fund the Mindich Fellowship, an intensive education pathway and teacher apprenticeship program that will connect liberal arts students with those working in education. The grant will also be used to expand the  Urban Education Initiative (UEI), which  prepares educators for work to improve public school quality in diverse, under-resourced communities. UEI is a program of the Jandon Center for Community Engagement.

Jeremy Mindich, twin brother of Dan and co-Founder of Propel Capital, said, “These gifts perfectly capture the love and passion Dan had for teaching and the dedication he showed in creating great school environments for all students. This project  will build on the wonderful work Vassar and Smith have been doing to prepare the next generation of teachers to lead classrooms across the country, and inspire young people to join the profession that meant so much to Dan. Our family and friends could think of no better way to honor Dan’s memory and legacy as an educator.”

Dan’s work as a researcher and educator reached many, including Sam Intrator, a former colleague of Dan and currently Smith Professor of Education and Child Study and Faculty Director of the Urban Education Initiative. “This gift will greatly enhance the work we do with Smith students, public school students, and other programs and partners committed to the idea that education can be a lever for equity, all of which rely upon the kind of vibrant teacher networks Dan created everywhere he taught,” Intrator added. 

Dan’s network of friends and family have rallied around the fund, with many already donating to the matching funds. Vassar’s Vice President for Alumnae/i Affairs and Development Timothy Kane noted,“Dan was beloved and crossed all social boundaries when he was a student here.” 

Both Dan and his wife, Dr. Shilpa Mindich, graduated from the college. Dr. Mindich said that “this gift is a tribute to the school and to the community that it fosters,” and that she was sure Dan would be proud that his memory was being honored in this way.

Propel Capital