Philanthropist profile: Susan Ford Dorsey

In honor of SVCF's 10th anniversary, we're featuring stories of the amazing individuals, families and organizations that have partnered with us to develop their philanthropy and address pressing issues in Silicon Valley and beyond. Read more below, or check out the spring 2017 issue of SVCF Magazine.

Susan Ford Dorsey, Phillip Powell
Through the Sand HIll Foundation's scholarship fund with SVCF, Susasn Ford Dorsey partners with Phillip Powell, CEO of the Peninsula College Fund, to help kids from low-income families in East Palo Alto, Calif., succeed in college.

Since the mid-1990s, Susan Ford Dorsey and her late husband, Tom Ford, have been helping kids from low-income families in East Palo Alto go to college.

“We were very interested in helping families break the cycle of poverty,” Susan says. “And there’s evidence that a college education makes a difference for young people — not only in terms of their financial security but also their lifetime success. So we decided to start a scholarship fund, the Sand Hill Scholars Program.”

While the Sand Hill Foundation funds the scholarship program, SVCF handles its management. 

“The community foundation markets the program, receives applications, vets the candidates and presents a list of finalists to a small committee that then chooses our recipients,” Susan says. “They are an essential partner in the Sand Hill Scholars Program.”

The Sand Hill Scholars Program has provided scholarships to 101 students since it began in 1995.

What started as a simple scholarship fund has evolved into a larger initiative.

“It has become increasingly clear over the years that college admission alone is not the brass ring we once thought it was,” Susan says. “The completion rate among first-generation college students is disappointingly low.”

So in 2015, the Sand Hill Scholars Program started offering additional funding to recipients, along with support services such as mentoring and tutoring in partnership with the Peninsula College Fund, led by Phillip Powell.

“These kids often feel like they don’t fit in at college because there aren’t a lot of people like them,” Susan says. “But we’re hoping that matching them with a mentor and upping the award amount will help give them the support they need to finish their degrees and reach their life goals.”

Learn more about how SVCF can help philanthropists establish scholarship funds, or contact us at to get started!