Education Fund

Education Fund


”Women helping other women never gets tired.”  That’s our Forum Credo, and one of the ways we walk the talk is through our Education Fund, a 501(c)(3).  Our membership of successful women leaders knows that education is key to career and life success. That’s why in 1987 we created the Education Fund as our way of giving back. Our Fund provides financial awards to women 35 and over who have demonstrated high potential, but whose education and life path have been disrupted by extreme adversity including domestic violence, abuse, addiction, extreme illness or disability, caring for disabled children, incarceration, even the aftereffects of war. These women frequently fall outside the scope of traditional scholarship programs and our awards help them complete their education and get their lives back on track.

Our unrestricted awards recognize that sometimes completing your education requires tuition or books, but sometimes it’s childcare or transportation or just putting food on the table. Over 33 years, the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum has raised over $1.8 million through member donations and our annual fundraiser, the Elly Awards, enabling us to help over 260 women regain their self-esteem, relaunch their lives and become role models for their families. That’s why we believe: “Educate a Woman, Impact Generations.”

Education Fund Scholars

Imagine the possibilities when women dream and an avenue is opened for them to succeed. Your support can make a difference.

Meet our {year} Scholars

Click here for the Directory of Education Fund Scholars (Scholars only/password protected).

Watch the videos below to hear our Scholars tell their stories.

Award Eligibility and Application

Our Education Fund Awards are given to high-potential women, age 35 and over, whose education and lives have been disrupted by extreme adversity. Our awardees recognize that education is the way to fulfill their potential. Applicants must demonstrate noteworthy promise, resilience in the face of challenges and a commitment to making a difference once their own career goals are achieved. True financial need should be evident, and the candidate should be enrolled in a degree program and be in good academic standing.  

The 2021 Education Fund Application submission window has now closed.

Please do not contact the Women’s Forum office about your application materials. If you are missing any required supplementary items, you will be contacted individually.

Applicants will be notified of the results no later than June 30th, 2021.

The Elly Awards, named for Forum founder Elinor Guggenheimer, is the annual fundraising luncheon for The Education Fund of the Women’s Forum. Since 2011, the luncheon has honored women leaders who have set the rules of the game or changed them in their respective fields.

Past honorees have included Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, media mogul Sheila C. Johnson, fashion visionary Deirdre Quinn, media disruptor and entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, cable television pioneer Kay Koplovitz, Tony Award winning theatrical producer Daryl Roth, city conservationist Barbaralee Diamonstein-Speilvogel, US Treasurer Rosie Rios, actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, Tony Award winner Phillipa Soo and Congressional Representative Carolyn Maloney.

This regularly sold-out event features well-known introducers who give special insight into the honorees. Past introducers have included luminaries such as Katie Couric, Glenn Close, and Judy Collins. The event includes a “Conversation on Leadership” which has been led by prominent New York City media personalities including Paula Zahn, Gayle King, Deborah Norville, Cheryl Wills, Barbara Walters and Rikki Klieman.

Support Us

Contributions to the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum are tax-deductible. In addition to our annual Elly Awards, you may support the Education Fund through individual and corporate donations or our planned giving program.

Education Fund


Education Fund Leadership


Barbara Marcus

President & Publisher
Random House Children's Books

Barbara has spent most of her career in the area of Children’s Publishing and Media and is considered a leading business and marketing strategist in the areas of children’s content and distribution. Barbara is currently President and Publisher of Random House Children’s Books whose parent company is Bertelsmann AG, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies. They publish many of the world’s bestselling and most highly acclaimed authors and illustrators for young people today and is home to many of the most recognizable licenses and characters in the world, such as Babar, the Berenstain Bears, Disney, Little Golden Books, Nickelodeon, Pat the Bunny, Sesame Workshop, and Magic Tree House. Prior to Random House, Barbara was Advisor to Open Road Integrated Media in the area of children’s digital publishing and general strategy. She also was Strategic Innovations Advisor to Penguin Books USA focusing on new ventures and publishing opportunities. Before Penguin and Random House, Barbara was President, Scholastic Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution, where she was responsible for all children’s consumer book publishing and distribution in the U.S. for over 20 years. She led the expansion of the business from approximately 50 million to over 1 billion in revenue. After acquiring J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for publication in the U.S. in 1998, Barbara also led the publishing effort for six out of the seven Harry Potter titles.


Joan Haffenreffer

Managing Director, CAO, Global Public Affairs

Joan serves as Managing Director and Chief Administrative Officer for Global Public Affairs (GPA) at Citigroup, the leading global bank with 200 million customer accounts and 210,000 employees and business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi’s Global Public Affairs group is charged with ensuring that Citi’s global dialogues with the public, governments and investors are effective and consistent. In her role as CAO, Joan oversees programs and budgets for 725 staff across six continents. She works with Citi’s Executive Management to organize and implement all Public Affairs initiatives, Citi’s Global Corporate Philanthropy, as well as the Group’s global talent development, staffing, governance and budget. An important part of Joan’s responsibilities is overseeing the operations and governance of Citi’s global charitable contributions programs to ensure consistency with Citi’s Executive Management strategic priorities. She is charged to identify opportunities to increase the institutional impact of Citi corporate philanthropy for targeted grant recipients by leveraging the resources of Citi Global Branding and Citi Foundation. Joan chairs the cross-functional Citi GPA Talent Development Program to grow talent and develop multiple career paths with over 400 participants. Over the course of her career at Citi, Joan has held a variety of senior line management roles, most recently in the Consumer Group.

Vita Cassese

Senior Advisor
Health Enterprise Partners

Vita is the CEO of Mardon Management Advisors, a healthcare technology and analytics advisory firm and a Senior Advisor to Vestar Capital Partners and Health Enterprise Partners.  She has over 30 years of experience as an operating executive and strategist in the life sciences and healthcare sectors.

Vita serves as a non-executive director on a number of boards for organizations across a variety of industries. She is a member of the Board of Directors of ONTO Innovation (NYSE:ONTO), Loftware, Inc., and Interactive Health.   She formerly served on the Board of Directors of The Medical Knowledge Group,  Decision Resources Group, Zitter Health Insights, and The StayWell Company.  Vita is a member of the Health Care Advisory Board and the Technology Advisory Board of Riverside Partners and a member of the Advisory Boards of Prognos and ClaritasRx. As CIO of Pfizer’s Worldwide Pharmaceuticals Group, Vita led an organization of nearly 2,000 employees in 44 countries with an operating budget exceeding $1.5B.  While at Pfizer, Vita was instrumental in the creation and leadership of Pfizer’s Global Innovation and Strategy organization.  She was a member of the eight‐person Worldwide Pharmaceuticals Executive Leadership team, which was responsible for long-term business strategy. Vita has authored numerous articles and has been profiled in several industry publications.

Suzanne Randolph

The ALIX Experience

Suzanne Randolph’s well-established career in the visual arts began with an early commitment to bringing the works of individual artists from around the world to corporate settings and public spaces within the public and private sectors. More recently, she has integrated the forward-looking principles of “design thinking” as a way of expanding SRFA’s business strategy and as the framework for development of ALIX, a global resource, which addresses the specific needs of executive women through the creation of meaningful experiences for its members.

Elaine Wood

Vice President
Charles River Associates

Elaine is a former federal prosecutor and a certified compliance and ethics professional with more than 20 years of experience conducting international investigations and consulting on internal controls and procedures.  She helps clients implement compliance controls, and specializes in emerging technology solutions insecurity, risk management, and data governance.

Prior to joining  Charles River Associates, Elaine was a Managing Director for 15 years at Kroll and, more recently, at Alvarez & Marsal, where she oversaw high-profile fraud investigations and helped implement compliance protocols. She uncovered widespread corruption orchestrated by the COO of a major corporation, enabling the company to sue and recover significant damages. She conducted a successful undercover investigation for Madison Square Garden, exposing a scheme to divert season subscriptions to illegal ticket brokers, and she helped devise business controls to prevent future fraud. She also developed source information for CNN to help refute reports that nerve gas was used in Vietnam in violation of the Geneva Convention. Elaine served as a monitor in the waste carting industry in New York for five years, and she designed an international monitoring protocol to eliminate child labor abuse in the sporting goods industry.

Prior to Kroll, Elaine served for six years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where she led fraud and civil racketeering cases, successfully instituting a court-appointed monitor for the Restaurant Workers Union in New York City.   She began her legal career as an associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

Elaine is proud to serve as Chair of the Board of Legal Momentum, the Women’s Defense & Education Fund.  Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum is dedicated to advance the rights of all women and girls.