Forman Sinnickson Acton was born in Salem City and he went on to change the world.
Born on August 10, 1920, he began his education in the Salem City school system before attending private boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy and college at Princeton University. He graduated with two degrees in engineering toward the end of World War II, during which he served in the Army Corps of Engineers and worked on a team involved in the Manhattan Project.
After his service, he earned his doctorate in mathematics from Carnegie Institute of Technology, helped the Army develop the world’s first anti-aircraft missiles and became a pioneer in the evolving field of computer science.
Acton conducted research and taught at Princeton from 1952 to 1990, during which time he wrote textbooks on mathematics at his cabin on Woodmere Lake in Quinton Township, Salem County. When he turned 80, he joined the Lower Alloways Creek pool to stay in shape, swimming six days a week for 14 years.
He died on February 18, 2014, in Woodstown, New Jersey, but not before he anonymously donated thousands of dollars toward scholarships for Salem City School District students, some of whom are just now graduating college. Before he passed, he made it clear to friends and confidants that he wanted these students to have access to the incredible educational experiences he enjoyed.
Eight months after his passing, the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation was officially incorporated to ensure that all Salem youth also have a chance to change the world.
Here's a full timeline of how our foundation came to be:
1920: Forman Acton is born at 55 Oak Street in Salem City and grows up at 101 West Broadway. He is family friends with Herb Fithian, who grows up nearby in Bridgeton. The two remained lifelong friends.
- Wikipedia: Forman S. Acton
- Princeton News: Pioneer in computing dies
- Philadelphia Inquirer: A New Jersey son's rich legacy of learning
- The Adam blog: A Cool and Righteous Dude
- South Jersey Times: Forman Sinnickson Acton obituary
Important People Who Helped The Foundation Grow
Herb Fithian was close friends with Forman S. Acton and in many ways, is responsible for the very creation of the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation. In 2009, Forman asked Herb to be the sole trustee of his estate. He told Herb he’d like to have his money support educational opportunities for children who were as bright as he was but didn't have the same financial backing. At the time, Forman wasn’t sure how to do it. Herb suggested that his daughter, Kathryn Fithian Markovchick, help Forman craft a plan to benefit Salem youth.
For four years starting in 2010, Kathryn and Herb convinced Forman to donate anonymously to help Salem students by providing an annual $10,000 scholarship to a select Salem High School graduate. In 2014, when Forman passed away at age 93, he was still working with Kathryn for a final decision on how to help Salem’s youth for the long-term. He acknowledged that Herb and Kathryn would be able to work it out after his passing.
Eventually, Herb and Kathryn decided that a foundation, rather than a trust, would be the best way to ensure Forman’s legacy lived on. In October of 2014, New Jersey courts agreed that Forman’s wishes would be better honored by creating a foundation independent of the Salem School System.
Herb passed away in September 2018 at the age of 94, but Forman Acton’s legacy lives on because of the support, guidance and lasting friendship he had with Herb Fithian.
Beth Bordowitz was the former Vice President of the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation and led the creation of our Acorn Fund college savings accounts, which work to create college savings accounts for all children living in or attending school in Salem City.
Before joining the Foundation, Beth spent time conceptualizing, establishing and managing college savings programs in the state of New Jersey. So, she was the perfect fit to lead the Acorn Fund initiative for the Foundation. As Vice President, Beth ensured the Acorn Fund program was created following all legal guidelines and in a way that maximizes its impact on young people in Salem. She worked closely with Franklin Templeton Investments, the program manager of New Jersey’s college savings program, and the Community Foundation of South Jersey, where the Acorn Fund was established, to build the program. Her goal from the outset was to create a college savings program that could benefit all children in Salem or who attended school in Salem – including everyone from those just about to graduate high school, to newborn babies. Since its creation, Acorn Fund accounts have been created for hundreds of young children and students in Salem, already paving the way for many to be better able to afford college tuition.
Along with her time spent developing the Acorn Fund program, Beth also implemented governance, compliance, programs and grant processes for the Foundation in its early days. She worked to lay the foundation for the Forman. S. Acton Foundation and build it into what it has become today.