Foundation Watch

The Nathan Cummings Foundation

Another foundation skews leftward after its benefactor’s death

(PDF here)

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is yet another philanthropy whose original donor was able to live the American dream and create great wealth through the free market.  But once he died, his foundation began to fund left-wing groups that fight for such causes as single-payer health care, a centrally planned energy economy, open-borders amnesty, and same-sex marriage. 

The Nathan Cummings Foundation (NCF) of New York City was created by its namesake in 1949. Nathan Cummings (1896-1985) was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. This apparently apolitical, self-made man bought the C.D. Kenny Co. of Baltimore in 1939, and over the next 30 years transformed it from a small wholesale distributor into the international giant known as the Sara Lee Corporation. He retired in 1968 and turned to art collecting and philanthropic interests, with a focus on medicine and science.

Cummings created the foundation in 1949 and “contributed to mainstream American and Jewish groups and supported the nascent nation of Israel through gifts to such organizations as United Jewish Appeal; he also made grants to various universities, medical centers, and hospitals,” according to The foundation only began to take on an overtly left-wing focus upon his passing in 1985, when it received most of Cummings’ $200 million estate. Like many benefactors, Cummings had stipulated vaguely that his philanthropy’s resources should be directed to pursue “charitable, eleemosynary, educational, scientific, literary, religious and artistic purposes.”

The NCF board, consisting mainly of his children, in conjunction with a lawyer and a foundation consultant, reinterpreted these directives. The new goals of the NCF were to be health care, Jewish causes, the arts, and environmentalism.

But how have even these goals been pursued by the NCF? It is next to impossible to determine the NCF’s institutional self-understanding of its history since the time of its re-focusing in 1986. The website presents its so-called history in the form of six asynchronous and impressionistic anecdotes regarding the NCF’s general approach to board-recommended grants, shareholder resolutions, the investment committee, the impact of early and late funding, and family and spouse involvement on the board.

The current self-understanding of the NCF is presented in a video and accompanying article of March 13, 2012, entitled “The Invisible Helping Hand of Government,” which attacks the conservative view that government need only get out of the way of the private sector in order for the economy to grow. The video claims that America’s prosperity only exists thanks to government efforts like the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), government funding of scientific R&D at government labs and private universities, broadband and wireless infrastructure, public job training programs, the National Weather Service, the auto bailout, public education, fuel efficiency standards, transportation infrastructure, the Clean Air Act, and Department of Defense research and purchasing that led most notably to commercial jet engines.

NCF’s CEO Simon Greer concludes, “Until we Americans truly recognize the myriad ways in which government protects the quality of life in America and provides the foundation for economic growth, we’re likely to continue to have a shallow and partisan debate about the size of government or trust in government.”

The NCF wants governments to increase spending on existing poverty relief programs, fund groups that seek to lobby the states to set up the Obamacare exchanges or to register people for the misnamed Affordable Care Act, and to implement a carbon-trading scheme or perhaps a carbon tax.

But, as we shall see by examining the groups that the NCF actually funds, its true policy goals are explicitly understood to be the establishment of universal single-payer health care, an extreme egalitarian vision of economic and social justice in the U.S. and Israel, the promotion of social justice through the arts, and financial support for radical environmentalist groups whose understanding of “sustainability” goes beyond the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts, beyond carbon controls, to the destruction of the coal industry and government funding of arbitrarily chosen green tech companies, if not to full governmental control of energy markets.

According to its mission statement, the Nathan Cummings Foundation is “rooted in the Jewish tradition and committed to democratic values and social justice, including fairness, diversity, and community.” These last are notoriously loaded terms. For example, in the parlance of the academic Left, the demand for “social justice” requires an entitlement state sufficiently strong to regulate every aspect of civil society and to pick winners and losers in the private sector; the political goal of “social justice” or “fairness” implies subordinating the modern republican ideal of equality before the law in favor of equality of outcome; “diversity” implies ignoring the merit of individuals and creating quotas or systems of affirmative action for favored groups; and the rhetorical appeal to “community” means that constitutionally guaranteed rights and economic freedom should be severely restricted whenever populist demagogues can persuade a legislative body that the common good of the “community” requires it. In short, the stated political aim of the NCF could in theory range anywhere from some moderate social programs designed to benefit the poor, to European social democracy, to outright collectivism.

Since this tissue of loaded political terms is nowhere defined on the foundation’s website or any of their publications, one must inquire how the NCF understands them. As with most left-of-center organizations, the only way to know what the NCF stands for is to look not to what it says, but instead to what it has done. In practical terms, the NCF mission statement claims that it seeks “to build a socially and economically just society that values nature and protects the ecological balance for future generations; promotes humane health care; and fosters arts and culture that enriches communities.” The NCF claims that these four major areas of its giving embody several themes: “concern for the poor, disadvantaged, and underserved; respect for diversity; promotion of understanding across cultures; and empowerment of communities in need.” This report will trace the funding history, finances, and past and current projects of the NCF, with a view to determining the foundation’s vision of “a socially and economically just society” and how it has endeavored to implement it.

Finances and Grants
The NCF sustains itself through investment income derived from its original endowment. Total assets listed in 2011 IRS filings (the most recent available), were $402,877,329, from which $25,996,396 in grants was awarded.

These figures lead DiscoverTheNetworks to rank the NCF in the top 125 funders of far-left groups. It may not be in the same league as George Soros’s Open Society Institute ($1.1 billion in assets and $1 billion in grants for 2009), the Ford Foundation ($10 billion in assets, $476 million in grants for 2009), or the MacArthur Foundation ($5.2 billion in assets, $234 million in grants for 2009). But the NCF is near the very top of the middle-range of left-wing funders, far surpassing the more famous Tides Foundation and Center, the (Barbra) Streisand Foundation, and the William, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation. As we shall see next, NCF money is essential to the operation of a staggering number and variety of far-left groups.

Far-Left Activist Groups and Think Tanks
Since 2009, NCF has donated $180,000 to Demos, a group that lobbies state and federal legislators to levy punitive taxes on the rich, especially on the top 1 percent of income earners, and on corporations. Demos advocates for “redistribution” through increasing transfer payments in Social Security, Medicare, the Buffet rule, and tax credits. The policy wonks at Demos are not phased by the fact that the top 2 percent of income earners pay 40 percent of the taxes, the top 6 percent pay 60 percent of the taxes, the top 20 percent pay over 80 percent, and about half of all Americans pay no income taxes at all.

Demos advocates legislation to establish same-day voter registration, blocking voter ID laws, and restoring felons’ voting rights. The policy wonks at Demos generally favor expanding global governance, e.g., by supporting the job-killing Kyoto Protocol, and the U.N. Millennium Project to cajole rich countries to increase their developmental assistance donations to 0.7 percent of their GDP.

Demos is an integral part of the progressive movement and has strong ties to the Democratic Party. Among its board members are self-described “communist” Van Jones, 1960s radical Miles Rapoport, and National Council of La Raza organizer Clarissa Martinez De Castro.

The daughter of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amelia Warren Tyagi, is currently listed on the Demos website as a board member and co-founder. One of Demos’s founding board members in 2000 was then-Illinois state senator Barack Obama.

The NCF has pumped $258,000 into the Institute for America’s Future (IAF) since 2002. The IAF is an activist group founded in 1999 by 1960s radicals Robert Borosage and Roger Hickey. Its primary aim is to bring about single payer health care, i.e., socialized medicine. Its sister organization, Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), a 501(c)(4) founded in 1996, advocates for higher taxes, increased social spending, and single payer-health care. CAF helped to found the Apollo Alliance, a far-left environmentalist group that was the subject of a separate Capital Research Center report by Phil Kerpen (Foundation Watch, October 2009).

The NCF has donated $25,000 since 2011 to the Wellstone Action Fund (WAF)—a Minnesota-based group named after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.). WAF is one of the more mainstream progressive organizations that provides training for political campaigns, coalition building and ballot initiatives, labor organizing, and community organizing. On its board serve pundit Donna Brazile, movie star Robert Redford, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and John Lewis (D-Ga.), and L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as well as former Vice President Walter Mondale, and former Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). Marxist academic Frances Fox Piven, who developed a strategy with her late husband Richard Cloward to overthrow American capitalism, also serves on the board, along with Robert Borosage.

The NCF has donated $22,500 since 2006 to Environmentalism through Inspiration and Non-Violent Action. This group is more widely known to the public under a different name: Code Pink. DTN reports that, under the leadership of Medea Benjamin, Code Pink “Helped deliver more than $600,000 in cash and medical supplies to the families of the insurgents who were fighting American troops in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.” (Code Pink was profiled in Organization Trends, December 2006.)

Green for All (GFA) has received $50,000 from the NCF since 2010. Van Jones co-founded GFA with Joel Rogers, the founder of the Apollo Alliance. GFA says it is “dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans through a clean energy economy.  We work in collaboration with the business, government, labor, and grassroots communities to increase quality jobs and opportunities in the green industry—all while holding the most vulnerable people at the center of our agenda.”

GFA has indeed created so-called green jobs for poor youth in major cities, but only with massive taxpayer support. It also lobbies for cap-and-trade legislation that would lay waste to the U.S. coal industry.

The NCF has fed Urban Agenda the sum of $150,000 since 2007. Urban Agenda in turn funneled money to Apollo Alliance, another extreme environmentalist group of Tides and CAF provenance that proclaims, “Working with our coalition of labor, business, environmental and community leaders we will reduce carbon emissions and oil imports, spur domestic job growth and position America to thrive in the 21st Century economy.” Apollo Alliance was responsible for drafting the $86 billion green jobs portion of the $787 billion so-called stimulus package known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Harry Reid praised the group, saying “The Apollo Alliance has been an important factor in helping us [the U.S. Senate] develop and execute a strategy that makes great progress on these goals and in motivating the public to support them.” But the result has been either mass layoffs or a wave of multi-million dollar bankruptcies in green companies like Solyndra, many of which were linked to high-value donors to Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Urban Agenda’s beneficiary, Apollo Alliance, merged with Blue Green Alliance in 2011. Van Jones and John Podesta are now gone from its board, but Borosage remains.

Since 2011, the NCF has donated $250,000 to the Sustainable Markets Foundation, which was founded with assistance from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and it in turn funded, a Bill McKibben-led group which focused on pressuring Obama to veto the Keystone XL pipeline. took credit when the pipeline project was killed.

The NCF has donated $250,000 to the Third Way Institute (TWI) since 2010.

All of the money went to “the clean energy innovation project,” which appears to be largely white papers on man-made climate change. But a donation of this magnitude means that the NCF is indirectly sponsoring the TWI’s other projects by freeing up their internal sources of funding. TWI states that its agenda is “a series of grand economic bargains, a new approach to the climate crisis, progress on social issues like immigration reform, marriage for gay couples, tighter gun safety laws, and a credible alternative to neoconservative security policy.” As for the number of green jobs created by the stimulus, there is no official tally; only political rhetoric about the pseudo-statistic of jobs “saved or created.” The so-called multiplier effect of the stimulus is a subject of fierce academic debate. For the average citizen, the legacy of the stimulus and green job spending will be the historically low rates of GDP growth in the recovery that followed the great recession of December 2007-June 2009, compared to the higher rates of recovery from the recessions of 1970, 1975, 1980, 1982, and 2001. Real median annual household income (in dollars adjusted for inflation from a base year of 2000) is down 4.4 percent since the end of the great recession. The 5.8 million jobs added since the end of the great recession works out to 121,000 jobs per month, but the rate would need to have been 200,000 per month just to keep pace with the increase in working-age adults. As a result, the labor force participation rate (the percentage of adults who are either employed or actively looking for work), which stood at 66.0 percent at the beginning of the great recession, fell to 65.7 percent at the end, and has since dipped to 63.2 percent in August 2013 in the anemic recovery, the lowest point since the “stagflation” of the Carter administration.

The Herndon Alliance has received $1,535,000 from the NCF since 2006. The Alliance describes itself as “a nationwide non-partisan coalition of more than 200 minority, faith, labor, advocacy, business, and healthcare provider organizations.” The group has been working at the state and federal levels to promote health care reform since its inception in 2005.

Planned Parenthood has received a total of $219,500 from the NCF since 1999. The foundation makes no statement about being pro-life or pro-abortion, but its largesse, even if it were earmarked for healthcare programs provided by Planned Parenthood, indirectly supports abortion by freeing up Planned Parenthood’s other sources of funding to be allocated for abortion.

Big Labor
Although the NCF website avoids all mention of working with big labor, it comes as no surprise that it funds it. The NCF is indirectly involved in political issues and labor disputes at the local level through its funding of the Partnership for Working Families in the amount of $775,000 since 2004. The Partnership is an umbrella organization for a network of local groups that is tasked with conducting issue campaigns for local public works projects as a means of job creation.
The NCF has donated $150,000 to Restaurant Opportunities Center – New York since 2005. ROC claims to have won “13 major campaigns against exploitation in high-profile restaurant companies, organizing more than 400 workers and winning more than $7 million in financial settlements and improvements in workplace policies.” For instance, ROC won “$4 million in stolen tips and wages and payments for discrimination and sexual harassment” from Fireman Hospitality Group. (ROC was profiled in Organization Trends, August 2013.)

Philanthropy Trade Associations
Since 1999 the NCF has donated $291,500 to Independent Sector, whose mission statement claims it is “the leadership network for nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good in America and around the world.” Independent Sector does not appear to be involved in any direct political activity. It seems to be focused on training leftists for careers in management, coalition relations, and development at left-wing foundations and think tanks. But beware of your rights, freedom, and property when the Left appeals to big government to act in the name of the “common good.”

The NCF has donated $240,000 to the National Committee for Responsible Philanthropy (NCRP) since 1999. NCRP purports to be a watchdog of philanthropic groups, but the only kind of philanthropy it recognizes as legitimate involves either “social justice” or community organizing. NCRP’s mission is premised on a vague appeal to government as the guarantor of the common good: “We envision a fair, just and democratic society in which the common good is recognized as a high priority; where a robust public sector is empowered to protect, preserve and extend the commonly held resources and the public interest; where a vital nonprofit sector provides voice and value to those most in need; and where all people enjoy equality of opportunity.…”

We can surmise the NCRP agenda from the circumstance that Gara LaMarche, former president of Soros’s Open Society Institute, is on the board of directors, and that Aaron Dorfman has been the NCRP’s executive director since 2007, prior to which he was a “community organizer” for 15 years, including 10 years as executive director of People Acting for Community Together and 5 years as “head organizer” for the Minneapolis and Miami chapters of ACORN, the disgraced community organizing group that declared bankruptcy in 2010.

The NCF has supported the Proteus Fund to the tune of $810,000 since 1999. The Proteus Fund is yet another far-left umbrella funding group ($9 million in assets in 2011 with $6.4 million in grants awarded). Proteus runs a mix of funding programs and a donor-advised fund, so that donors may donate anonymously to the social justice cause of their choice. DiscoverTheNetworks reports that one of the Proteus Fund’s programs, the Civil Marriage Collaborative, has “supported movements promoting ‘marriage equality’ for homosexual couples in 13 states and the District of Columbia. A key grantee of this program is the ACLU Foundation of New Mexico.”

Art for Economic and Social Justice
Talking Eyes Media has received $162,000 from NCF since 2003. This group understands itself to be “involved in social issue messaging and every aspect of bringing a project to fruition. We communicate the problems and solutions addressed by non-profits, foundations and social entrepreneurs through vivid films and photographs.” The group largely makes movies and documentaries on international and domestic issues about where it perceives to be social and economic injustice, e.g., the evils of big oil, free-market health care, and international capitalism. In essence, its leaders are Michael Moore wannabes who contract themselves out to other left-wing social justice groups.

The sketchy group Urban Bush Women has received $815,000 from NCF since 2000. This dance group aims “to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance” and sees “art as a means of addressing issues of social justice and encouraging civic engagement.”

Religion and Social Justice
The NCF’s account of its partnership with the New Israel Fund (NIF) on religion and social justice is altogether vague. The NCF claims to be working to advance both “religious pluralism” and “social justice” in Israel and implies this is an unusually difficult task. Presumably such talk is a veiled reference to the cultural differences that exist between the Jews and the Palestinians within Israel, as well as between the numerous groups from the Diaspora that settled there. The only concrete achievement the foundation can point to is its funding of a consortium responsible for “the most massive social justice protests to have ever been experienced in Israel,” but the NCF does not list the names and dates of these protests. A 114-page report, entitled Visioning Justice and the American Jewish Community, makes only one oblique reference to the Palestinian state and “civil liberties, conflict resolution, and Jewish-Arab co-existence efforts.” One has to wonder whether this kind of funding, and all the possible grantees in Israel the NCF is not funding, do justice to the donor intent of Nathan Cummings himself, who proudly assisted Israel’s founding. Consider, for example, the revelation in a Wikileaks cable that an official at the foundation’s grantee New Israel Fund privately told American officials “she believed that in 100 years Israel would be majority Arab and that the disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.”

In October 2013, NCF hosted the “2030 Faith in America” conference on religion and spiritual practice in public life in New York City in October 2013.

The conference was an interfaith confab of leaders in their 20s and 30s that hoped to determine “how the diversity of our religious beliefs can lead us to act collectively—expressing a powerful religious call for a stronger, healthier, more equitable and more democratic society.” It is unusual to see a left-wing group call for an expanded role for faith in either civil society or the public sphere. George W. Bush was roundly attacked for merely observing that he looked to his faith as a source of strength to sustain him through difficult decisions. Nevertheless, the NCF is now inquiring “how might we as people of faith, support individuals and communities connected to their religious and spiritual identities, to amplify their voice, vision and public leadership?”

Lance Lindblom served as CEO of the NCF from December 2000 through the end of 2011, the timeframe during which most of the funding decisions referenced above were made. Lindblom came to the NCF with the pedigree of having served as executive vice-president at George Soros’ Open Society Institute and as a program officer at the Ford Foundation—two of DiscoverTheNetwork’s top seven funders of far-left groups. While at the NCF, Lindblom kept a low print media profile and worked primarily behind the scenes, doing things like proxy and shareholder resolutions to force companies to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and abandon construction of coal-fired power plants. During Lindblom’s tenure, the NCF partnered with CERES—an umbrella organization of 130 groups ranging from Oxfam to the California and New York state employee pension funds to establish and fund the Investor Network on Climate Risk. INCR is now our nation’s largest network of environmental investors and activist groups, and claims to have 100 major investors and $11 trillion in assets under management.

Lindblom received the 2013 Democracy in Action award from Common Cause, a Soros-funded group that focuses on campaign finance reform, gutting the military to increase welfare and environmental spending, and the “fairness doctrine” that would force privately owned radio stations to take a loss by mandating equal time for liberal talk shows. In his acceptance speech, he touted unions as “defenders of democracy” and attacked the Citizens United free speech case as “the cause of the evil” because it allows corporations (and labor unions) to donate unlimited amounts anonymously to 527 committees and super PACs that advocate on behalf of causes or candidates. Lindblom dreams of a “constitutional amendment” to do away with Citizens United.

Lindblom extends his condemnation of Citizens United to corporations in general. He fears that corporations are “externalizing costs” on the people for the sake of private gain; for example, corporations have been engaging in “environmental degradation,” “undermining regulations and safety,” and “rigging tax policy to benefit corporations and undermine the public fisc.” He fears these evils will eventually “undermine democracy” and lead to “plutocracy.”

The current CEO, Simon Greer, took the helm in January 2012. According to his official bio, he has “worked as a labor and community organizer and social change leader for 20 years. He founded Jews United for Justice, an urban social change group in Washington, D.C., and served as the executive director for New York Jobs with Justice.”

In the seven years prior to his joining the NCF, Greer worked on institutional development at the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Jewish Funds for Justice.   His bio credits him with making those groups “a strong advocate for a fair, just, and compassionate America.”

Greer’s bio also states that in 2011 he was named “to the Forward 50, an annual list of the country’s most influential Jews, in part for the role he played in convincing Fox News to cancel Glenn Beck’s popular daily show.”  Beck and Fox may have parted company, but rumors of Beck’s demise are greatly exaggerated., for instance, reports that Beck has 7.5 million listeners to his radio show and ranks his website The Blaze as the fourth largest conservative news site.

The contretemps between Greer and Beck is well-documented. In a Washington Post op-ed dated April 14, 2010, Greer took umbrage at Beck’s on-air claim of March 23, 2010, “Make sure your church puts God first and politics and government last.” It is not clear how Greer understood Beck’s epigrammatic claim, except that he attacked him as a “con-man” who is “bottling his ideological agenda in ‘theology.’” Greer sees Beck’s claim as encapsulating his vision of the roles of government and religion in a liberal democracy.

In any case, Greer responded to Beck with his own views of the roles of government and religion in a liberal democracy. Greer put a religious slant on what it means to be a community organizer: “we are all made in the image of the divine, and our government is an essential mechanism that ensures our shared divinity.” Greer cashes out the role of government as follows:

“Here’s what we do for each other as Americans: grow food, create jobs, build homes, pave roads, teach our children, care for our grandparents, secure our neighborhoods. Government makes our country function. To put God first is to put humankind first, and to put humankind first is to put the common good first. The prosperity of the common good is tied to our government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.’”

Greer roots this vision of government in the religious imperative to love thy neighbor as thyself. He stops short of saying we should put both God and government first, but all of the activities he lists are already subsidized or regulated by the federal or local government. By Greer’s lights, virtually every aspect of civil society and the private sector are to be further assimilated into the legislative and regulatory authority of government. This understanding of the role of government envisions a European social democracy or something even more collectivist. Greer flirts with the idea of subsuming all aspects of social and economic life under the government. This is the hallmark of the community organizing demagogue.

Greer accuses Beck of impiety: “If we all attended houses of worship that put government last, humankind would be last, and God would be last too. From where I stand, the house of worship you desire—where God is divorced from human dignity—is not a house of worship at all. When churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship across this country advocate for social justice, advocate for the common good, advocate for America, they, and we, walk in God’s path.” So apparently Beck is to be condemned for “bottling his ideological agenda in ‘theology’” when he urges churches to de-emphasize politics, yet Greer is doing the Lord’s work by demanding that all houses of worship “advocate” for his left-wing version of government-created social justice.

Greer’s preferred label of “community organizer” is so vague that it can mean almost anything. The concept of community organizing entails the replacement of the American political system of ordered liberty under constitutional limits with a heavy-handed central government designed to ensure not just equality of opportunity but equality of results. The extreme progressive demand for fairness, justice, and compassion threatens the ordinary citizen with majoritarian injustice or an abridgement of liberty and rights at the hands of government regulators.

To fully appreciate how Greer understands the role of government in a liberal democracy, one should take a look at his three pieces on Huffington Post and contrast it with the actual funding behavior of the NCF. In August 2010, just prior to the Tea Party wave election, Greer labeled the liberty movement “crazy” because of its belief that Obamacare would create “death panels.” Greer added that “Without the Tea Party movement, we would have had a stronger health care bill, a more robust ongoing stimulus to retain and create jobs, maybe even comprehensive immigration reform.”

The NCF funds numerous left-wing groups that seek to establish single-payer health care; increase corporate, capital gains, and individual tax rates; radically expand existing social programs; crush the coal industry; and push extreme environmentalism.

The NCF’s spending over the past decade indicates its desire to move the nation away from being a federal republic that restricts the powers of the central government to genuinely national functions, while reserving the remaining powers to the states. To judge by its grantees and not by its words, the goal of the NCF is to remake the country in the image of a European social democracy.

Perhaps the board of the NCF should recall the observation of Nobel economist Milton Friedman: “A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.” Friedman was contrasting America’s exceptional history with that of revolutionary France and Russia, where the apparatus of the state was used by left-wing revolutionaries to foist an abstract equality onto the body politic and in the process those nations’ hopes for freedom were doomed.

Jonathan Hanen is a freelance writer and political consultant based in Washington, D.C. A native of Connecticut, he earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston University.