Published: November 28, 2017
On November 10, members and guests of the New England Society in the City of New York (NES) gathered at the Metropolitan Club to enjoy culture, cheer and fellowship at its 212th Annual Dinner Dance. The society, whose members share an interest in all things New England, is led by Anna Bulkot, who was asked to shed some light on one of the oldest social and charitable organizations in the United States, founded in 1805.
How many of the society’s early members were involved in shaping and building up Manhattan?
There are so many to choose from. Our past members have been not only been involved in shaping Manhattan, but have also had an impact on the United States. Although J.P. Morgan, the noted financier, art collector, philanthropist and 26th NES president, is probably best known, many others were noted men of their day. His grandfather, John Pierpont, noted poet and pastor, was a founding member of NES. The house of James Watson, founding member and first NES president, is still standing at 7 State Street at the very tip of Manhattan and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Akin to the Mayflower Society, is there a hereditary component to applying for membership in your organization?
NES is not a hereditary society. Although one can qualify for membership through ancestry, the more predominant categories are probably through education and residency. Note that New England is defined as including the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. And summer residences qualify! Not being a member does not preclude someone who is interested from attending our events. We are quite an inclusive group.
Your scholarship program has been making awards for 64 years. How many scholarships in total have been given out over that period and how many students are currently receiving assistance?
In 1945, NES decided to focus its philanthropic outreach on education, and the organization launched its College Students’ Loaning Fund, which provided emergency loans to students at New England colleges and universities. More than 75,000 students received loans during the program’s 45-year period. In 1953, NES expanded its educational outreach and launched the NES Scholarship Program to provide financial help to New York City students attending colleges and universities in the New England states. Since the program’s launch, NES has funded more than 100 scholarships of up to $25,000 per student over a four-year period. Currently, 15 students receive individual partial scholarships, which help them to be able to attend the colleges of their choice.
Antiquarian dealers Leigh and Leslie Keno are listed among recipients of the Reginald T. Townsend Award. What can you tell us about this award that recognizes New England spirit?
In 1952, the New England Society established the Townsend Award, named for its 64th president, who initiated the NES Scholarship Fund. The award’s goal is to recognize outstanding achievement representing the finest attributes of the New England character. Award recipients have represented excellence in a wide range of fields, from the sciences, academia and letters to business, politics and the arts. This year’s honorees were Ian and Shep Murray, the co-founders and co-CEOs of Vineyard Vines.
Tell us a bit about another signature program, the annual New England Society Book Awards.
The awards are presented every year, honoring books of merit that celebrate New England and its culture in four categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Art and Specialty. Nominated by publishers and selected by a jury of publishing professionals and NES members, selections have included titles as varied as The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro (Algonquin Books, 2013), Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick (Viking, 2014), The Map Thief by Michael Blanding (2015) and many more. Our awards committee will honor the winning authors at two events in New York City, June 2018: an evening salon and panel followed by an awards luncheon the next day. All events are open to members and their guests.
Is the annual dinner dance, this year conducted November 10 at the Metropolitan Club, the sole social occasion for society members?
Although it is our signature event and fundraiser, NES has other events throughout the year. Of additional note is Founders Day, a cocktail party typically conducted in May to commemorate the society’s founding on May 6, 1805. Readers can visit NES website, www.nesnyc.org, to check out the 2018 event calendar and learn more about the society.
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