About TJEF

 The John Ernest Foundation's role is to turn a dream into a reality. Planting ideas, imagining unorthodox relationships, nurturing a passion, devising and auditing realistic budgets – this is our mission.

 The mission is achieved through John Ernest Fellows, who reflect a diversity and complexity of human backgrounds and come from most corners of the globe.

"Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach."


Meaning of a John Ernest Fellow

 What does it mean to become a John Ernest Fellow? It might seem like an easy question, but I am sure that every Fellow would give you a different response. When I look at the definition of mentoring, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person,” I find it to be incomplete. It is a relevant description, but it doesn’t acknowledge the fact that both the mentor and the less knowledgeable person learn through this process.

 Mentoring is far deeper than simply teaching, it is being exposed to another world. No matter how wise we claim to be, mentoring teaches us that in fact, our bandwidth is small. Two people not knowing anything but trying to help each other might sound paradoxical, but it is the essence of mentoring.

 I propose another definition for mentoring, a definition that grasps the complexity and intensity of these relationships. Sharing mistakes increases negative learning and can be helpful to avoid pitfalls; another benefit is nurturing a growing relationship with increased trust.

 Mentoring is based on love: the love we have for our neighbors, for the children of others, for those who suffer our prejudices.

 Mentoring is mathematics, it connects the dots and multiplies the relationships. Mentoring is philosophy, sharing the thoughts and frustrations that burden our ethical urges. Mentoring is dreaming, imagining others later in life, being fulfilled and happy. Mentoring is hope, especially putting hope in the heart of the hopeless. Mentoring is fueled by a sense of purpose. Mentoring is all of that and much more. It is The John Ernest Foundation, it is what we believe and toward what we allocate our time and resources.

 Talent is in each and every one of us. When we believe in mentoring, we believe in developing relationships to benefit all involved in a particular constellation.

 I grew up in a suburb of Orleans. I saw talent, hope, and fight, but unfortunately, I saw it wasted far too often. I saw lives, which fortune broke. Those hearts filled with hope and passion were dashed into hopelessness. For those with potential who both government and markets left behind, for those who fortune cursed, for those who keep battling life and its ups and downs, I ask you to believe in mentoring and to believe in me.

  Téo Soler
  Member, The College of Mentors
  The John Ernest Foundation

Ode to a Fallen Mentor

Long before the old word “mentor” again became so fashionable, I well learned the best of definitions from several women and men who helped shape my life. Erwin was chief among them.

What the concept came to mean so vividly to me, was a safe haven, where one could live without fear. Authority, while ever present, was overridden by a mutual respect, which the mentor duly earned.

A good mentor listens honestly.
A good mentor uses judgment with the utmost care.
A good mentor is a master with the chemistry of friendship.
A good mentor does not require hearing hints, as she or he wants them told, rather in naked, unabashed language.
A good mentor is a patient teacher, and learns when to employ instruction.
A good mentor is clever, and understands how temporary disappointment can be.
A good mentor is seldom bored by the pupil.
And, most important, a good mentor is also in a constant state of learning, and often from the pupil.

To me, Erwen was a model mentor.. To the very end, he listened as I learned…agreeing at times with my thoughts and behavior, or critiquing my assumptions.

I always felt important to him.
I always felt I could translate what was to me a very complicated world, and that he truly understood and enjoyed hearing its parameters.
Never did I feel my world baffled him.
We were always equals. Even when I was sixteen.

What so commanded my respect for Erwin was his proper sense of good and evil.

He understood duplicity.
He understood false pride and vanity.
And, he also taught me that the means to an end, if suspect, were unacceptable.
Credibility is a scarce commodity, hard earned. It was to Erwin, among the best of traits.

Finally, Erwin taught me a lot about competence, which is born in the pursuit of truth, subject to limits, which one should learn, know and practice.

For the competent, ignorance is the ever lurking enemy.
While one doesn’t have to experience a car crash to know how painful it can be, it is always imperative to know, to be modern, to experience.

At his home on New Year’s Eve before he passed, Erwin proudly handed us his present, How We Die.
Even near the end, he was modern. He was learning. He was experiencing.

I am but one small life Erwin touched.

He lives in the many who carry his flame!
He wrote, very creatively, on the slate of eternity.

And it is we, who must pass on these sagacious truths, which will honor his memory.

  Kenneth Carroll Kaufman, 1995

Becoming a John Ernest Fellow
Application Information
Full Name:
TJEF Fellows span to almost all corners of the globe. If the above criteria don't aptly describe your home location, please specify as best you can in the space provided.
Dates Available:
A pillar of TJEF is to "provide value in a timely manner."
Secondary School:
TJEF Reference/Initial Impressions
From whom did you hear about The John Ernest Foundation? Describe how you think the Foundation operates?
Dream Statement
To streamline the initial stages of your experience as a TJEF Fellow, we need to know the long-term goals you have as they relate to the Foundation. What is your dream?
At TJEF, a picture shows product! About 40-45 current John Ernest Fellows is our bandwidth...
Eric Sodomka (center right) and Okke Schrijvers (center left) are senior scientists at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park. Eric spent countless hours to get four young Nigerian young academics visas, conference fees, and flights to come to Oxford to attend the 14th conference on web and internet economics, a conference on mechanism design. Okke (long standing John Ernest Fellow and member of TJEF’s College of Mentors) connected them to The John Ernest Foundation, which provided their conference fees to help them reach their goals. This project was conceived 1 month ago. Talk about adding value in a timely manner! Conference was held at Oxford University in mid-December, 2018.
Board of Governors
Daniel Crowder (Cleveland, Ohio)
Ryan Esposto (San Francisco, California)
Andrew Fowler(San Francisco, California)
Christian Groenke (Dallas, Texas)
Jared Hanson (San Francisco, California)
Kenneth Kaufman (Hesston, Kansas), Executive Chairman
Zineb Laraki (San Francisco, California)
Randy Niemeyer (Santa Monica, California), Treasurer
Ryan Perry (San Jose, California), Secretary
Adam Robb (Moundridge, Kansas)
Derek Yoder (Hesston, Kansas)
Benjamin Hunsberger, Scribe
Zach Esau, Intern-in-Advancement
Téo Soler, TJEF France
Contact Us
Parkland Hall at Old Parkland, Suite 500, 3889 Maple Avenue, Dallas, Texas, 75219