What would inspire Gerald (“Jerry”) Appelstein, a highly successful venture capitalist who never attended Montclair State, to support the university with such fervor?
“Montclair State University is a diamond in the Garden State,” he says. “It is a magical place that is providing largely underrepresented populations of students with instruction, facilities and platforms at the highest levels.”
Then again, Jerry has a good eye for such things. As President of Applehouse LLC, he is accustomed to spotting—and pursuing—promising investments. Montclair State quickly became a priority for him. He joined the University’s College of the Arts Advisory Board and the Montclair State Foundation Board and became co-chair of the Foundation Board’s Development Committee. Last year, Jerry established the Lori Katterhenry Dance Scholarship Fund, in honor of the recently retired – and much loved – Director of Dance. He begins 2021 as chair of the President’s Club, the University’s giving society for donors who give $1,000 or more.
A chance meeting led to Jerry’s involvement with Montclair State. “I met [Montclair State University Foundation Board member] Penny Vance,” he recalls, “when we were both volunteering on the board of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. She introduced me to Dr. Cole, who made such an impression on me!” Before long, Jerry was attending Montclair State events and meeting faculty, administrators, and other volunteer leaders including College of the Arts Dean, Daniel Gurskis and the College’s advisory board chair, Bob Gregory.
At Montclair State, Jerry saw an opportunity to make a real and lasting difference. Before forming his own investment company, Jerry was Vice President of Tauber Oil Company and a former executive of Exxon and Starsupply GFI. As an MIT alum, he headed up his 25th reunion gift campaign, working closely with the institution’s president to raise funds for his alma mater. Nearly 85 percent of his class participated in the campaign. In 2015, Jerry received MIT’s highest alumni honor in recognition of his service, including serving as the first chair of the institution’s leadership giving group, the William Barton Rogers Society.
Jerry also brings to Montclair State his extensive experience as a leadership-level volunteer in the arts. He has provided philanthropic and advisory support for a wide range of organizations, including Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Alison Cook Beatty Dance, the Joyce Theater, Parsons, Stephen Petronio, Jessica Lang, Jody Oberfelder, Robin Decker, Pam Tanowitz, Bryn Cohn, Periapsis, Arch Ballet, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Broadway Cares, and the Skyline Theatre Company.
“Everywhere I look at Montclair State I see heart, soul, and talent,” he says, noting the beauty of the campus, the uptick in groundbreaking research, the quality and dedication of the faculty, and the gifted and determined student body. As a donor, he also sees the potential for high returns.
“A contribution of $1,000 can literally save the education of a hardworking student at Montclair State,” he says, referring to the typical gap between many students’ financial aid package and the cost of staying in school. “It isn’t too often that a gift of that size can be so transformative.”
“It is this reality that makes the President’s Club so important,” he continues. “It also helps explain why I am thrilled to become its first chair. I have so many ideas for elevating the President’s Club’s presence in the community, and I am looking forward to leading our efforts to express gratitude to the University’s most loyal and ardent supporters.”
Jerry’s passion for the University is inspiring. “I believe in the mission,” he says. “If you think the American Dream matters, then this is where you can make it happen,” adding, “and I love being part of a community that truly focuses on the success of our students, holding itself to the high standards required for a society that can and must do better.”