History of AIFS
The American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) is the brainchild of Cyril Taylor, Roger Walther and Doug Burck, three young men working in brand management at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati, Ohio in the early 1960’s. The original idea behind AIFS came from Cyril's then girlfriend, now wife Judy. Judy was a high school French teacher who wanted to take her class to France for the summer on an educational travel program. At that time, no U.S. company organized such programs and there was a void in the market place. The three took a leave of absence from Procter and Gamble in 1964 and created a study/travel organization utilizing the campuses of European universities that were closed during the summer months. Initially nine facilities were leased and language programs for young Americans were set up. High school language teachers were then contacted and encouraged to recruit students. In 1965, the first summer of operation was launched and 1,500 students participated, paying one million dollars of tuition fees. The rest, as they say, is history!
AIFS grew rapidly in the 1960’s and moved its headquarters to Greenwich, Connecticut. It broadened its offerings with programs for U.S. college and university students in addition to the high school business. AIFS then began to offer an in-bound program on the J-1 visa to international students. It was called Camp America. Doug Burck left the company in 1970 to join the Peace Corps.
In 1971, wishing to offer a study abroad program in London, AIFS purchased Richmond College in Richmond, Surrey (just outside of London) which is now called Richmond, the American International University in London. The original Richmond College, founded in 1843, was a constituent institution of the University of London until the founding of the present university which bears its name and occupies its campus. The University is now incorporated as a not-for-profit educational institution in the state of Delaware in the U.S., and is a recognized 501(c)(3) public educational charity under U.S. law. A second campus was opened in the Kensington area of London and 1,100 students from around the world now attend Richmond. The 1970’s was another decade of substantial growth as the college division increased program offerings to Europe, Asia and South America.
In 1981, the Academic Year in America (AYA) Division was established and international high school students began to come to the U.S. on J-1 visas to live with American families and attend local high schools. In 1986 the Au Pair in America program was organized and was an instant success with two career professional families desiring cultural exchange and childcare. AIFS went on to acquire two companies in the late 1980’s, ELS Educational Services and ACIS, an educational high school company. ACIS then merged with the established AIFS high school division to form a strong operation based in Boston, Massachusetts. AIFS became a public company in the late 1980’s but was later re-acquired by management. AIFS split in 1991 and the ELS side of the business became a separate company under the direction of Roger Walther while the Chairman and Founder, Cyril Taylor, managed the other parts of AIFS. The President of AIFS in the 1980’s was Henry C. (Hank) Kahn.
The College Division also continued to expand in the 1980’s. In addition to summer, semester and academic year programs, a new type of study abroad program was established. This new concept, called Partnership Programs, enabled colleges and universities to create their own programs and bring faculty abroad. This was a popular option for community college students seeking a low cost study abroad alternative.
The 1990’s were excellent years for AIFS as study abroad continued to grow in popularity. Robert J. (Bob) Brennan became President of AIFS in 1990, a post he would hold until 2005. Programs were organized in Australia and South Africa and an Internship option was offered at Richmond, The American International University in London. The increase in AIFS enrollments was fueled by website development, marketing through customer relationship management systems and increasing awareness in international programs. Au Pair and Camp America continued to thrive due to tremendous efforts by our professional staff. In the mid 1990’s, AIFS created Cultural Insurance Services International to offer insurance to its students. It soon became popular with other study abroad providers as well as universities and colleges offering study abroad programs. An international insurance company called CareMed was later acquired by AIFS to service international clients.
In the late 1990’s, AIFS acquired GIJK in Germany (now known as AIFS Deutschland) and Au Pair Discover in South Africa to market its Au Pair, Camp America and Academic Year in America programs. AIFS also established a Resort America program to assist U.S. resorts with their international staffing needs and provide a cultural exchange for international participants. AIFS also set up an office in Melbourne, Australia and a branch office in Warsaw, Poland (1999). At the tail end of the century, AIFS moved its headquarters to our current location in Stamford, Connecticut.
In 2001, AIFS acquired the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG), a New Jersey based educational organization for gifted and talented students. SIG became a separate non-profit 501(c)3 organization in 2010.
William L. (Bill) Gertz, an AIFS Marketing Executive, became President and CEO in 2005. From 2005-2008, the number of program participants increased substantially. AIFS consolidated in 2008-2009 due to the global recession, but the business leveled off and began to grow again by the end of the decade.
In 2011, AYA celebrated its 30 year anniversary and placed nearly 800 students. In the same year, Au Pair in America celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala reception hosted by the Assistant Secretary of State in Washington D.C.
In the fall of 2011, AIFS was named one of the top places to work in Connecticut by Hearst Newspapers in their annual survey.