Jay Stern (1913-2009) was the founder and active patron of the Interactivity Foundation.
A former banker, World War II veteran, and regular contributor to progressive causes in West Virginia, Stern was among the most engaged and colorful philanthropic figures in the state. Among his career highlights was his donation, in 1981, of his shares in Parkersburg’s Wood County Bank to the U.S. government, which he did to both reduce the national debt and highlight his refusal to participate in increasing lending rates as required by a change in federal regulations at that time.
Born to a family of German immigrants, Stern worked in the family’s retail clothing store, Stern Bros. Inc., in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and met his future wife Margaret, a native of Sydney, Australia, while serving as a company commander in World War II.
Although he served for a number of years as president and board chairman of Wood County Bank and eventually testified to Congress about banking regulations, Stern’s real passion was for meaningful and civil public discourse concerning broad areas of public policy. To pursue this interest and further such discourse, Stern incorporated the Interactivity Foundation in 1987 and funded it with continuing donations from the sale proceeds of his family’s coal land investments.
Until his death in 2009, Stern was a vigorous and engaged patron as President and Board Chairman of the Foundation. The Foundation’s mission continues to reflect Stern’s lifelong dream of providing a useful discussion process and with it a safe forum—a sanctuary—for Americans to discuss the most pressing issues of the day.
For a more detailed biography with additional photographs, you can download a pdf copy of Julius “Jay” Stern: A Biography (52 pages, 679 KB) by Natalie Hopkinson (© 2010 Interactivity Foundation)