On Sept. 11, 2001, 66 of the 83 men and women who worked for the investment banking firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners on the 104th floor in the World Trade Center lost their lives. They lost a third of their employees to the attacks on the World Trade Center. The firm quickly set up a foundation to pay the college tuition for the children of those who passed. Twenty years later, now known as Piper Sandler, the firm has two of those children working in their office and following in their father’s footsteps.
So far, 54 young men and women have had their college tuition paid so far, with 22 more still eligible. The 54 who are now attending or have attended college have gone to an array of schools from Stanford to Notre Dame to community colleges and technical institutes. The youngest child eligible was born six weeks after September 11. When that child graduates from college, the Sandler O’Neill Foundation will cease to exist, except as an honorable memory.
In 2001, the investment banking firm had 171 employees and was headquartered in New York City. Eighty three employees worked at the World Trade Center. One third of the firm’s partners, almost the entire equity desk, the entire syndicate desk, and all of the firm’s bond traders died in the attack. Among those lost were Herman Sandler, and Christopher Quackenbush, two of the three senior executives who managed the firm. In the harrowing days following the terrorist attacks, the company made the decision to set up a foundation to pay college tuition for all the 76 children of their fallen colleagues.
Sandler’s surviving partner, Jimmy Dunne set up the foundation along with friends, colleagues and some banking competitors. When asked why he set up the foundation, Dunne said “There was a moment in time to stand up,because we believed that what we did would echo for a hundred years in the families of our people, their kids and their grandkids. Because how we conducted ourselves in those first few hours and days would define who we really were and what we were about. I knew that if we were not honorable, then we stood for nothing.
Dunne’s friend, Andy Armstrong, one of the founders of the foundation said “We were up and running by the end of the first week. We wanted the families of the lost to know that we would always remember, that the passing years would never sweep this under the rug. People donated many millions of dollars to set up the foundation. We have no salaries and no expenses except fees to stay extant. I know most of the children who went to college. You wouldn’t believe some of the letters they have written in appreciation. I think they particularly appreciate that we remember their mom or dad this way. Many of them hardly knew their moms and dads.”