donor spotlight: jon schor

Over two decades ago, Jon Schor gave an 11-year-old neighbor with a passion for horses her very first job—grooming his. 

He didn’t really need the help, recalls her mother, Ginny Nightingale, who lives in the small hamlet of Red Rock, NY. He must have figured that the Nightingales, both teachers, would appreciate their daughter Jennifer having some earnings of her own to put toward an expensive hobby.

The investment paid off. Jennifer grew up to be a dairy and equine veterinarian, after graduating from Cornell’s veterinary school with help from a scholarship Jon provided. Her brother Ryan is now in medical school the same way. 

There may not be another community in our region whose future prospects are so closely identified with one person. The unofficial mayor and chief benefactor of Red Rock, who for three decades looked down from his hilltop home on a two-mile stretch he loved, Jon Schor remains a singularly powerful force for good there. 

Having sold his interest in a successful family business, Jon moved to Red Rock full-time in 1984 and put his generosity into action at a time when it was sorely needed. “People were struggling to stay here as costs were rising,” Ginny says. “Local kids were being forced to move out.” 

That was true for members of the volunteer fire company, a pet cause of Jon’s. So he divided part of his land into parcels and helped the members build homes for themselves and their families. 

A founding board member of the Columbia Land Conservancy, Jon was instrumental in helping the organization establish its public education and recreation programs, as well as a public conservation area program to begin restoring the balance between open space and development. 

A lifelong participant and volunteer with the Boy Scouts, Jon was larger than life and funny, friends say.  He kept company with a small pack of Weimaraners and threw annual parties to which the entire town was invited. 

Sadly, his vibrant life was cut short, at 57, by Lou Gehrig’s disease. At that point, his legacy took on an even greater weight.

Jon left nearly 700 acres in the land conservancy’s care, including what became the beloved 223-acre Schor Conservation Area, along with endowments to ensure their management. Through his will, he also made a significant bequest that established the Quailwood Fund at Berkshire Taconic. 

At Jon’s direction, this endowed area fund supports conservation, public recreation, fire and rescue facilities, and scholarships for the residents of Austerlitz, Canaan, Chatham and Red Rock. Its advisory committee, made up of presidents of the organizations he loved and on which Ginny once served, developed a grantmaking strategy and process that Berkshire Taconic has handled ever since. 

Ten years ago next month, the Quailwood Fund issued its first call for applications for annual grants. Since that time, a total of more than $375,000 has been pumped into the Red Rock community, helping to preserve its history and protect its people. 

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Jon’s legacy, however, is the reach of his substantial annual scholarships. Twenty-one students, including sets of siblings like the Nightingales, have gone to college thanks in part to Jon Schor, who most of all wanted local students to have a shot at achieving their dreams. 

“Jon would be thrilled that local kids have a leg up for future careers and success,” Ginny says. “I’m just sad he didn’t live to see it.”