Gift to Foundation Endows STEM Scholarship

Sanford Shuler: Scientist, Dreamer, Philanthropist

Whether it was nuclear fission or a better way to rake leaves, Sanford Shuler never met an engineering problem he didn’t want to solve.

Sanford and Marilyn ShulerHe used alternative fuel sources when gasoline was rationed during World War II, he built the first deep freezer, he invented heat tape – by accident, when trying to make a better ski wax, and he conceived of the idea of a gasoline-powered lawn mower.

The Schenectady native and GE engineer, was on the GE team that developed the first American jet engines. He was on the forefront of the technology that brought us rockets, nuclear submarines, space exploration, and much more.

In a 2007 article in the Issaquah Press, Mr. Shuler said: “I happened to hit all these things just as the wave was about to crash. This is one of the more interesting times to be alive. Never again, in the history of change, will the rate of change be that high.”

Sanford Shuler, who died in 2011 age 95, is remembered by friends as a brilliant engineer, a visionary, and a dreamer.

One of his dreams was to help someone else have the opportunity to pursue a career – a passion – in science and engineering.

Thanks to a $250,000 bequest to The Schenectady Foundation from the estate of Sanford and Marilyn Shuler, that dream has been realized. The Schenectady STEM Scholarship (Clarence E. Crowfoot and Mary Clarke Scholarship Fund) is now available to graduating seniors of Schenectady High School who intend to pursue engineering and science in college.

“Sanford named the scholarship in honor of Clarence E. Crowfoot and Mary Clarke. We know that they were people who took him in as a young man and instilled in him the importance of education, and who supported his pursuit of science,” said Frank Crawford, the Shulers’ lawyer and personal friend of several decades. “Sanford worked with Mr. Crowfoot on an invention to remove leaves and grass. It was patented in 1949, and was one of four patents he held during his lifetime.“

“Sanford grew up poor, with no assumption that he would go to college. He felt that others helped him when he needed help. He wanted to return the favor.”

“The Shulers could have done anything with their estate, but they chose to give back to Schenectady through their bequest to The Schenectady Foundation,” said Robert Carreau, TSF Executive Director.

“The Stockade Society was created to recognize and honor those -- like the Shulers --  who have made gifts to the Foundation through bequests or lifetime giving, as well as to inspire other like-minded individuals to discover the benefits of a gift to TSF. The Shulers’ gift brings the Foundation one step closer to reaching our goal of 50 Gifts for 50 Years during our Golden Celebration year.”

Sanford, who held degrees from RPI and the University of Arizona, wasn’t the only pioneer in the family. His wife Marilyn shared his fearless spirit. As a divorced mother of two, she built a successful corporate career at a time when few women – and fewer mothers – were doing so. She was Accredited Executive in Personnel with extensive experience in human relations, industrial and labor relations, personnel corporate accountability and administration. She and Sanford had met at GE many years before they became a couple.

After they married, he took a job with Exxon and they moved to Issaquah, WA, near Seattle, and built their dream house where they lived for more than 40 years. He had a passion for aviation, and owned his own plane for a time. 

Often ahead of their time, the Shulers and some business associates purchased one of the first wineries in Washington State in 1974. Although they were correct that the Northwest climate was good for grape-growing, the market wasn’t there yet, and they eventually sold the property. Today, Washington is one of the top wine-producing states in the country.

In the 1980s Sanford inherited a Nevada gold mine from his father and grandfather. While there was gold in the mine, it was far from profitable. Sanford kept a mobile home there, and built a lab. If the mine needed some kind of equipment, he would make it, adapt it.

“Along the years, they met a cast of rogue characters who wanted to go into the mining business with them. I was forever drawing up agreements,” said Mr. Crawford. “But the people would always end up stealing from them. Sanford was very trusting, and wanted others to succeed too. When the price of gold started going up, they were finally able to sell it – after many years of trying.” 

Sanford could devise all kinds of technical solutions, to all kinds of problems, according to Mr. Crawford. “But he could not have survived and have had these funds had it not been for Marilyn. She wholeheartedly supported his schemes, but kept them from going bankrupt. The scholarship is just as much her responsibility.”

“I’m sure that Sanford Shuler would have been happy to know that The Schenectady Foundation awarded a grant to the Schenectady High School robotics team, which is the only high school team entered in a NASA competition to develop a prototype for getting soil samples on moon,” said Mr. Carreau. “When Sanford worked at GE Westinghouse, one of the major contracts he worked on was for NASA.”

In a letter to the Foundation, the Shulers’ daughter wrote: “Sanford believed you should pay forward the opportunities you were provided. My brother and I hope that this will help someone pursue their dreams and be part of the next wave of new inventions and explorations that Sanford was able to be a part of throughout his life.”

Sanford Shuler left a legacy of exceptional achievements. And because of his generosity and forward-thinking, his legacy will also help the next generation of scientists make their own exciting discoveries.

You too can leave a lasting legacy. Regardless of the size of your estate, your membership in the Stockade Society will help seed the future strength of our community, and ensure that we continue to have impact for the next 50 years!

For more information about how you can be part of supporting the Foundation through your estate plan contact Robert Carreau, Executive Director, at (518) 393-9500; rcarreau@schenectadyfoundation.org