It’s not difficult to trace the roots of Phyllis Rappaport’s passion for hard work, education and philanthropy – all cornerstones of the Rappaport Foundation, of which she is founder and chairperson.
Phyllis’s mother was a 1929 college graduate and math teacher who accurately presumed scholastic success and career paths for each of her four daughters, the youngest of whom was Phyllis.
Her father, meanwhile, worked six days a week selling home heating oil, and 25 years after his passing, Phyllis had taken over her mother’s finances when she discovered weekly checks of $5, $10 and $15 still arriving in the mail.
In the frost-bitten region of eastern New York where the family grew up, many of those customers simply hadn’t been able to pay at the time, but her father would deliver anyway. He had never mentioned it, but those debts were still being paid back more than two decades later.
“I grew up in a very wholesome, kind environment, with a strong sense of values,” Phyllis remembers today.
The upbringing has served her, and those served so generously by the Foundation, very well.
In addition to her lead role at the Rappaport Foundation, Phyllis is also a founder and director of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, which has donated over $125 million to Alzheimer’s research since its inception in 2004.
She has extensive experience in public and non-profit service, having served as an elected member of the Lincoln-Sudbury Regional School Committee for seven years. She was also a longtime trustee of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and serves on advisory committees for Massachusetts General Hospital, McLean Hospital, and Harvard University’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government.
As to the education for which her mother so strongly advocated, Phyllis is a graduate of Smith College and Simmons Graduate School of Management, which led to leadership positions in her early career at Hewlett Packard and PricewaterhouseCoopers. She is also the former vice chair of New Boston Fund.
“I like to think that Jerry and I like to think big and into the future,” she says. “I like thinking about possibilities, about things that could be, and I don’t mind working hard to achieve them.”