The Foundation was established in 1953 and is based in Princeton, New Jersey. Its financial assets were built over time through the generosity of members of the Allen and Cassel families, including Charles Allen, Jr., Rita Allen Cassel, Milton Cassel and Lucette Cassel.
The Rita Allen Foundation Scholars program selected its first class of Scholars in 1976 as one of the first philanthropic fellowship programs of its kind for early-career biomedical scholars. The program grew out of a deep interest in improving human health, guided by input from leaders in biomedical research.
With the Scholars program, the Foundation began what would become its defining approach to philanthropy: investing in the earliest stages of big ideas that have the power to be transformative.
New resources allowed the Foundation to hire its first chief executive officer, Elizabeth Good Christopherson, and open its first office in 2009. In the years that followed, with the addition of new Board members and a strategic outlook, the Foundation continued to build on the Scholars program while expanding its venture philanthropy work to invest in innovative solutions to strengthen our democracy through civic literacy and engagement. Today, the intersection of science and democratic engagement is a promising new horizon—science requires robust public support to thrive, and it is in turn an essential element of solutions across society.