Education Fund

Education Fund President Ilene Wachs


”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, sexual 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 30 years, the Education Fund of the Women’s Forum has raised over $1.6 million through member donations and our annual fundraiser, the Elly Awards, enabling us to help over 240 women regain their self esteem, relaunch their lives and become role models for their families. That’s why we believe: “Educate a Women, Impact Generations.”

Education Fund Leadership


Ilene Wachs

Horizon Casualty Services, Inc., Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Horizon Casualty Services, Inc. wholly owned subsidiary of Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of NJ, the dominant health insurer in New Jersey, is considered Horizon’s most successful for profit subsidiary, producing a significant percentage of its operating profits. When Horizon made a decision to broaden and diversify its business portfolio to additional insurance sectors, Ilene was selected to lead Horizon Casualty Services from initial new venture capitalization through full maturity. Under her passionate and strategic entrepreneurial leadership, the Company has experienced significant growth and has succeeded in attaining over 45% market share within its target markets. Previous positions have included CEO of CompScope, Inc., various leadership positions at Montefiore Medical Center, consultant to the British National Health Service, Royal Free Hospital, London and Adjunct Professor, NYU.

Marcy Syms

Vice President
Former Chairman & CEO
SYMS Corporation

Marcy is founding trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation and since 2012 President of TPD Group LLC., a multi generational succession planning company. She is the former Chair and CEO of SYMS, one of the first companies to offer designer and brand-name clothing at “off-price” rather than “regularprice”. In 1983, when taking SYMS public, Marcy became the youngest female presidents of a New York Stock Exchange company. In 2009, SYMS acquired Filene’s Basement and operated 50 stores under both names. Marcy is also author of the book “Mind Your Own Business, And Keep It In the Family” and a past columnist for “Family Business Magazine”.

Susan Davenport Austin

Senior Managing Director
Brock Capital Group LLC

Susan Davenport Austin currently serves as Senior Managing Director at Brock Capital Group. At Brock Capital, a boutique investment bank, Susan provides strategic and corporate advisory services to small and middle market companies. Sheridan Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) is a privately held corporation that was the majority owner and manager of American Urban Radio Networks (AURN), the only African American owned national radio network with over 300 affiliates across the country. Susan joined SBC in 2002 as Vice President of Strategic Planning and Treasurer. Subsequently, she was promoted to SVP and CFO in 2007, then to Vice Chairman in 2013. In 2004, she also became President of SBC’s division, Sheridan Gospel Network, a 24-hour gospel music network which had approximately 45 affiliates. Previously, Susan spent 10 years in investment banking, specializing in telecommunications and media finance at Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns and Salomon Brothers. Susan has been profiled twice as the cover story in Radio Ink (2005 and 2013) and has also been profiled in Womensbiz, Ebony and XII magazines. Susan and her husband, Kenneth W. Austin, have two children and reside in New York City and East Hampton.

Sarah Beatty Buller

President and Founder
MontgomeryBUILDS, Green Depot & Greenmaker Industries

Sarah Beatty is an accidental entrepreneur and mission driven builder. She is the co-founder of MontgomeryBUILDS(tm) (2013)– a multi tiered renovation project dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Montgomery AL. Sarah is the founder of Green Depot (2005) and Greenmaker Inudstries (2010). Green Depot is a one-stop shop for sustainable “green” building materials with locations serving New York, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Greenmaker Industries is a product development manufacturer committed to offering energy efficient, and healthy alternatives to conventional building materials. Current product lines include DecoPlast and GMI coatings & finishes. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Sarah worked for 16 years in media as VP of Marketing & Global branding at MTV: Music Television and SVP of Marketing and Off-Air Creative for USA Network. Senator Kristin Gillibrand nominated Green Depot is a 2010 winner of the EPA Environmental Quality Award. Sarah is a LEED accredited Professional. Tags: Entrepreneur, Mission Driven Builder, Innovation Enthusiast, Sustainability Advocate, Music Lover, Culture Junkie, Curious Traveler, Feminist, wife, mother.


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.  

2019 Awards Schedule

2019 Application available online – August 1, 2018

2019 Application deadline – EXTENDED to December 31, 2018

2019 Awards announced – July 1, 2019

Education Fund Fellows

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

Meet our {year} Fellows

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

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

Our Academic Partners

Our Education Fund provides applications through more than 50 New York City colleges and universities including

  • Adelphi University

  • Barnard College

  • Baruch College CUNY

  • Berkeley College

  • Boricua College

  • Borough of Manhattan Community College

  • Bronx Community College

  • Brooklyn College – CUNY

  • City College of New York – CUNY

  • City College of New York Center for Worker Education

  • College of Mount St Vincent

  • College of New Rochelle/ New York City Campus

  • College of Staten Island – CUNY

  • Columbia University

  • Cooper Union

  • Cornell University – NYC Campus

  • CUNY – School of Professional Studies

  • Fashion Institute of Technology- SUNY

  • Fordham University

  • Hostos Community College – CUNY

  • Hunter College

  • John Jay College of Criminal Justice – CUNY

  • Kingsborough Community College

  • LaGuardia Community College

  • Lehman College – CUNY

  • LIM College

  • Long Island University Brooklyn Campus

  • Manhattan College

  • Marymount Manhattan College

  • Medgar Evers College – CUNY

  • Mercy College – Bronx/Manhattan Campuses

  • Metropolitan College of New York

  • Monroe College

  • New York City College of Technology – CUNY

  • New York Institute of Technology

  • New York University

  • Nyack College

  • Pace University

  • Polytechnic University

  • Pratt Institute

  • Queens College – CUNY

  • Queensborough Community College

  • Saint Francis College

  • Saint Josephs College

  • Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education – CUNY

  • St. John’s University

  • The New School University

  • Touro College

  • Wagner College

  • Yeshiva University

  • York College – CUNY

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.