Jean Shafiroff is a New York City icon. Her story reads like a modern day fairytale: Girl from small town in Long Island grows up, goes to college, gets a degree in physical therapy and MBA from Columbia, marries Prince Charming, works on Wall Street, has a family and lives happily ever after- by helping others.
Known as “The First Lad of Philanthropy”, Jean is on the board and hosts countless charities every year. She has been honored and recognized by dozens of charities over the years, and this year Jean and her husband Martin are honorees at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s 61st Annual Summer Party on August 3rd.
We were lucky enough to sit down and learn more about Jean and her latest endeavors for 2019:
Kimberly Fisher: Who is Jean Shafiroff?
Jean Shafiroff: I am an American woman who is engaged in the work of philanthropy and activism. I am a family woman who sees that the world needs help in so many ways. Fashion and the Arts are also two of my passions. In addition, I am a published writer.
KF: What inspired you to start giving back?
JS: My parents and teachers were the first to encourage me to get involved in the giving back process. As a student, I attended 12 years of Catholic school, where the nuns taught us the importance of helping those in need. They taught us to have compassion towards the underserved. My parents were instrumental in teaching my brothers and me the importance of helping the less fortunate. My father, a school teacher, was very concerned about the progress and well- being of his students. They were loving parents who stressed the importance of education. I was fortunate to have good role models and was surrounded by people who had a deep concern for the underserved. Human rights were also very important to my parents. I will never forget how much my parents admired Martin Luther King Jr. and everything he did for humanity. I am also a great admirer of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
KF: What does philanthropy mean to you?
JS: Philanthropy is the love of mankind. A philanthropist is defined as "one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare". I believe we can all be philanthropists and I write about this in my book, Successful Philanthropy: How to make a life by what you give. When we give our time, knowledge and available resources, we engage in the act of philanthropy. For those who have very few financial resources to give, they can give time and knowledge, as both are equally important. I believe that those who have resources, have an obligation to help the underserved. To do nothing, is the waste a lifetime.
KF: What keeps you motivated after so many years in philanthropy?
JS: There are so many needs and never enough resources. I live a good life and have been fortunate to have resources available. I have traveled to many underserved countries, including: Cambodia, Nicaragua, Columbia and China. In these and other countries, I have seen enormous poverty and hardship. It is hard to see this and do nothing. I believe we are not put on this earth to work with the intention of only giving to ourselves. When we share our resources, we come closer to understanding the meaning of life. With this is mind, I remain committed and motivated to move forward with my work in philanthropy
KF: What is a typical day look like for you?
JS: Most of my days are very busy. I serve on 8 charity boards and all require a great deal of work. On a perfect day, I would eat breakfast and then go to a workout class at Exhale in New York or in Bridgehampton when I am out East in the Hamptons. I would then go home to work for several hours. It seemed as if I was always working. However, I do go out a great deal at night to various charity events and other functions. I am a people person and I enjoy socializing.
KF: You wrote a book Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give. What was the writing process like for you?
JS: Writing a book requires a great deal of work. It requires research, time to formulate ideas and then the time to actually write. My book is also based on many of my own experiences as a philanthropist. One summer, I spent day after day writing the book; it was not a simple process. However, I am glad that I wrote my first book. Now I am getting ready to start on the next one.
KF: You are known for your style and fashion sense. What designers are on your mind right now?
JS: There are so many great designers. I do have my favorites and they include: Oscar de la Renta, Zac Posen, Carolina Herrera, Victor de Souza and B. Michael. I also love the work by Alexander McQueen and many others. I am interested in exploring the work of younger designers, particularly Brandon Maxwell, the designer who dressed Lady Gaga for the MET Costume Institute Gala back in May 2019.
KF: 3 Things You Can’t Live Without:
JS: Love of God, my family and the philanthropic work I do.
KF: One of your guilty pleasures?
JS: I love rich hot chocolate and I do indulge! Another food I love to eat is pasta. Pasta is comfort food — and then there is truffled pizza.