By Barbara Fischkin
ANDREW SHIVA is the scion of a family intrinsically linked to the culture of America — and New York City. His grandfather started MCA Records, his mother was on Broadway, his father, a producer, was the founding general manager of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and a trustee of the Public Theater, as is he — and that is only a sampling.
In yet another realm, Shiva, 42, was chief psychologist of the Division of Forensic Psychiatry at NYU-Bellevue Hospital. Now, though, he devotes most of his time to studying the art and history of antique United States paper currency, partially as a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution.
With a gift of $5 million earmarked for the Clinical Psychology Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Shiva and his wife Anya, also recently became the largest donors in the nearly five-decade history of the college.
Giving to John Jay, he says, “feels right.”
That may be because he has done it before.
It was during the 1990s, as an unlikely but ultimately stellar John Jay student, that Shiva first became a donor.
“Yes, I started a small research institute,” Shiva (’97) says unassumingly. “Almost no one knew.”
The gifts he made as a student paid for psychology students to do research, which he says was almost nonexistent. The money came from a family foundation. In the beginning there were only a handful of small grants, but now about 25 are given each year, with awards as high as $10,000.
Shiva left John Jay having earned undergraduate and master’s degrees. Back then the college did not have a doctoral program in psychology, so he earned his Ph.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University. (The doctoral program at John Jay, which began about eight years ago, now has 43 students.)
By his own account, Shiva’s entry into John Jay was inauspicious. He grew up in Manhattan, attended private, tony schools: St. Bernard’s and Trinity School. Then he floundered. He spent a semester at UCLA, another at Vassar. John Jay was not on his radar. Not consciously anyway. The truth is he had been connected to the school since childhood.
When he was in fourth grade his mother died from cancer. Later a woman named Patricia Maull — the mother of a high school friend — became what he calls “a second mother.” “Patsy,” as she was known, was also the longtime Special Assistant to former John Jay President Gerald Lynch.
According to Shiva, one day when his college career wasn’t going so well, “She said in a very dry way, ‘Shiva, why don’t you just come to John Jay?'”
“I said ‘John Jay?’ Let me speak candidly here. I went to small private schools … Literally, I am thinking that’s the cop school.”
But at John Jay his professors took an interest in his education, unlike others at schools he attended earlier. His transformation did not happen immediately — he was also running a dance company and organized a nationwide collegiate a cappella competition, with the finals held at Carnegie Hall. But ultimately, he says, his professors at the college opened his eyes to psychology and forensics.
About Patsy Maull, who passed away about a year ago, Shiva adds, “If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have graduated from college and I certainly wouldn’t have graduated from John Jay, and I wouldn’t have made any gifts to the school. She is the cornerstone.”
Although his current gift is for forensic psychology, Shiva emphasizes that it “will embellish the current program not change it.” He describes clinical and forensic psychology as intertwined — adding that forensic psychologists should be able to treat patients in the general population as well. The gift will fund continuing research, the professional development of students and junior faculty and the further development of collegial relations between faculty and students. Shiva also envisions that “very far into the future,” the psychology program will run a community clinic for those who cannot pay for such services.
John Jay President Jeremy Travis describes Shiva’s gift as a “transformative” one, fitting perhaps for someone who was, himself, transformed at the college. Michele Galietta, director of clinical training for the doctoral programs, emphasizes that the gift will have a major impact on the program and that Shiva’s support for the past decade “has literally allowed the program to develop quickly into an outstanding one. His strategic decisions about funding have spawned research and enriched the program more than I can say.”
Despite these accolades and his background, Shiva’s demeanor is down to earth, transparent and quietly earnest. As a John Jay adjunct professor, he teaches the one course he loves, a clinical practicum, which, he says, helps students to function in the real world of psychology.
Shiva now spends much of his time with the National Currency Foundation, which he founded, and at the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution where he had been digitizing the bank notes collection of the United States Treasury Department, United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the Chase Manhattan Money Museum. In turn, he has permission to use these scans to curate virtual exhibits on a website that can be used to educate about the history of currency — and on the art of it as well.
“I have a note from a territorial bank — from the Deseret National Bank of Salt Lake City, Utah territory,” says Shiva. “You look at the president’s signature and it’s hand signed by Brigham Young. I’ve got a note from a Los Angeles bank and it’s one of a sheet of four notes signed by Cecil B.
DeMille. I have Civil War generals, industrialist bankers, railroad tycoons. Engravers are some of the most accomplished artists ever…. You can take the engraving off of money and put it on another piece of paper and it still would be beautiful. What is amazing is that a monetary instrument could simultaneously be a work of art, that is what captivated my attention.”
It’s Shiva’s interest in art that compelled him to select the 4,050-square-foot art gallery to be named after him and his wife to commemorate their donation. Of the naming of the gallery, John Jay President Travis says that part of the transformation of John Jay is “the integration of the arts, humanities, and performing arts into the life of the college, so it’s appropriate this space is devoted to art.”
With joy and pride, Shiva walks around, showing off the gallery, delighted that its space can accommodate large installations. “If not for John Jay,” says Shiva, “where would I be? John Jay helped give me direction when I didn’t have any.”