Eric Adler, WG'96

2016 Joseph Wharton Award for Social Impact


Eric Adler, WG’96
Co-Founder & Chairman, The SEED Foundation

Eric Adler is co-founder and chairman of the SEED Foundation, Inc., which develops and operates college preparatory boarding schools for highly at-risk inner city children. SEED’s first school, the SEED School of Washington, DC is in its nineteenth year of operations, and serves 355 students in grades 6-12 on a four-building campus East of the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.

SEED students are chosen by lottery without regard to academic talents, and most of them come from economically disadvantaged single-parent and no-parent homes, yet more than 90% of SEED’s graduates have gone on to four year colleges including Brown University, Carnegie-Mellon, Georgetown, Howard, Ohio Wesleyan, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Spelman, Wellesley, and many others.

The SEED School of Maryland, opened 2008, serves 400 students in grades 6-12 on a $60 million, 52 acre campus in Baltimore. The SEED School of Miami opened in 2014, and additional SEED schools are under study in other states.

As SEED has grown, Eric has been personally involved in every facet of SEED, including designing the educational program, hiring & managing key staff, raising almost $100 million in private donations, doing PR/communications, developing boards, lobbying U.S. & state governments for $60 million of annual operating funding, establishing $55 million of tax free bond financing, and building out a half million square feet of finished space on the schools’ campuses. From one employee in 1997, SEED has grown to about 400 employees today, with an annual operating budget of about $40 million.

SEED has been featured in media outlets such as 60 Minutes, Time, Newsweek, Nightline, Good Morning America, and the film “Waiting For Superman” by Oscar winning director Davis Guggenheim. For his work at SEED Eric has received an Echoing Green fellowship, Manhattan Institute’s Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award, Fast Company’s Social Capitalist Award (multiple years), and Harvard’s Innovations in American Government Award. He received Oprah’s Use Your Life Award on the show aired May 24, 2002 and was named a 2002 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine.

Eric earned degrees in engineering and economics from Swarthmore College, and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He taught high school physics for eight years, was a management consultant to Fortune 500 clients, and ran a financial advisory firm where he counseled high-worth clients on investment and philanthropic issues, before co-founding SEED. In addition to the board of directors of the SEED Foundation, and the board of trustees of each SEED School, Eric has served on the boards of Swarthmore College, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, and the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust. Eric is a general partner in Adler Associates, and a director of Big League Advance LLC. Eric is married to Suzanne Myers Adler, an endocrinologist on the clinical faculty of George Washington University. They live in Bethesda, Maryland and have two children.