Erik Osborne sits with his dog in his library

Erik Osborne

Giving Voice Spring 2019: Donor Story

The Osborne family name fills the pages of Cayuga County’s history. Hailing from a long line of entrepreneurs, activists and social reformers, Erik Osborne has worked tirelessly to not only honor, but grow the legacies of the family members who came before him. As an author, former publisher and philanthropist, Erik is well-acquainted with the power of the written word and the importance of storytelling as a vehicle for change.

A lifelong resident of Auburn, Erik spent his career giving voice to the stories of the people in Cayuga County. He served as publisher of the Auburn Citizen-Advertiser and, together with his father, founded Auburn Cablevision. Erik has been civically engaged in Cayuga County nonprofits throughout his life and has been an active member of the Cayuga Community Fund Leadership Council.

Once a private foundation, and now a fund at the Central New York Community Foundation, the Osborne Memorial Association Fund continues his family’s philanthropic legacy and commitment to community impact.

“We owe a lot to the city and its residents,” Osborne said. “This has always been a way of paying some of it back.”

This sense of community, of serving the people who help to build one another up, and providing platforms and points of connection for those who have been broken down, is a common thread running through the Osborne family history.

Erik’s great-grandmother, Eliza Wright Osborne, helped to create the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union in Auburn, which was in part supported by the Osborne Memorial Association. The union aimed to provide support for the cultural and educational growth of women in Auburn and ran a neighborhood house to help families of immigrants transition to America.

Eliza’s son and Erik’s grandfather, Thomas Mott Osborne, was an impassioned prison reformer who started the Mutual Welfare League at Auburn Correctional Facility. The league, now The Osborne Association based in New York City, has an 85-year history working to transform the criminal justice system – helping families maintain contact with their loved ones during incarceration and providing a support system for people who are newly released from prison.

As the one-time administrator of the family’s private foundation, the Osborne Memorial Association, Erik partnered with the Community Foundation to streamline and solidify his family’s legacy of giving in Cayuga County.

“It was imperative for me to find a permanent home for [the fund] to carry on a positive impact on Cayuga County even after I am gone,” Osborne said. “Our family has a long history here and it is important to me that my children stay connected to a place that has given us so much.”

Multiple generations of the Osborne family are engaged as joint advisors to the fund, thereby maintaining their connection to family, history and community. The Community Foundation’s permanent stewardship and investment management aimed at long-term growth will ensure that the Osborne Memorial Association’s charitable legacy is carried on for the benefit of future generations.

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