Ann English

A Long-standing Appreciation for Education

Ann and John English, in a photo taken on their 45th wedding anniversary.

“We came from very modest means,” Ann English said of herself and her late husband, John, who served as a United Board trustee (1992-2001). “Both of us had parents who worked hard to give us our bachelor’s education.” That appreciation for education, combined with the couple’s long history of service to nonprofit organizations, inspires her continuing support for the United Board. “Education is very important in our book,” she said in a recent interview. “It’s the best way to get a stable job and to have money to help other people.”

Mr. English developed expertise in investment management and pension funds during his 26-year career with the Bell Telephone System (later AT&T). He took a leap of faith in 1981, when he left the security of the corporate world to become chief investment officer at the Ford Foundation. “We prayed a lot about the decision,” Mrs. English recalled. “But John said, ‘If I am at the Ford Foundation, I can help people all over the world.'” Those years at Ford became a learning experience for both of them, as Mrs. English often accompanied her husband on travel, including a memorable trip to India in 1984. “We both learned so much during those years.”

Mr. English retired from the Ford Foundation in 1993, at age 60. “He wanted to focus full-time on helping nonprofit organizations,” Mrs. English said. His financial expertise was of particular value to nonprofit organizations, including the United Board. “He always wanted to serve on the investment committees, and he recruited others to serve on those committees too.” Mrs. English said she often learned about the work of nonprofit organizations, like the United Board, by proofreading her husband’s investment committee reports. “John would be so happy to know all that you are doing now,” she said.

Mrs. English (center) with Trudy Loo and Ricky Cheng of the United Board.

Mr. English passed away in 2001, but Mrs. English continues to support causes they both felt strongly about. A recent contribution to the United Board is an illustration. Inspired by her 1984 trip to India, Mrs. English decided to support a 2018-2019 United Board Fellow from India. She also wanted to support a woman, “as John, in the 1980s and 1990s, had been helping young female professionals who were hitting the glass ceiling.” Dr. Jyothi Kumar from Christ University, India, is an educator whose perception of leadership might resonate with that of the late Mr. English. In her application, she wrote: “I believe a leader is not one who has followers, but one who will multiply leaders.”

The United Board extends its deep appreciation to Mrs. English for her support of the United Board Fellows Program and for the generous contributions she, with her husband and on her own, has made over the course of more than two decades.