Category: Philanthropy

Louisville’s Community Foundation left a piece of its heart in San Francisco

Just because the Community Foundation of Louisville bears the city’s name doesn’t mean all its biggest grants go to local charities.

The foundation’s newest IRS tax return shows it gave $6.3 million to the Schwab Charitable Fund in San Francisco during the year ended June 3o, 2015 — its single-biggest gift during the period, and one far larger than its top gifts in the previous two years.

schwab-charitable-fund-logoThe Schwab Fund — which is affiliated with the discount brokerage of the same name — is an enormous donor-advised charity that gives money to other non-profits across the country at the direction of its individual donors. Indeed, some of those nonprofits are back here in Louisville.

The Schwab grant accounted for more than 22% of the total $28 million in grants made by the Community Foundation during the year. Here were the top 10:


In its 2013 and 2012 years, the Community Foundation also made large contributions to San Francisco charities — in both cases, the San Francisco Foundation — but nowhere near as large as the one to Schwab.

In both those years, the Community Foundation’s single-biggest grants went to 21st Century Parks, the non-profit that developed and maintains the sprawling Parklands of Floyds Fork, a group of four parks on 3,700 acres in eastern Jefferson County. Here were the top 10 those years:



Although the Louisville Community Foundation supports many local charities, it doesn’t limit its grants to the city. In fiscal 2014, only about $600,000 of the $28 million in grants came from the foundation’s unrestricted funds. The rest was made according to the terms of about 230 individual donor-advised funds it manages.

In its tax returns, the foundation doesn’t identify how much each of those donor-advised funds contribute, so there’s no way to know why so much money went to the Schwab Charitable Fund.

The Schwab Fund’s own tax return doesn’t offer a definitive answer, either. In its 2014 year, the fund made $1.1 billion in grants to more than 17,000 different non-profits — including nearly 30 back here in Louisville; indeed, one of those was 21st Century Parks, which got $105,000.

Photo, top: The Golden Gate Bridge, with the San Francisco skyline in the distance.

David Jones Sr., his alma mater UofL, and the politics of money and power in Louisville

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

David Jones Sr

If there’s anything surprising about David A. Jones Sr. formally entering the high-stakes fray over the University of Louisville yesterday, it’s the fact it took this long to become public.

Nearly three months ago, when Gov. Matt Bevin shocked the community by seizing control of the school and dismissing the 20-member governing board he declared “dysfunctional,” the first person I thought of was Jones, the Louisville native, co-founder of Humana, and one of the state’s leading philanthropists.

That June 17, Bevin said his decision was the “culmination of all the conversations I’ve had with everybody on all fronts.” He didn’t reveal the names of those he’d spoken with, but it certainly would have included alumni whose opinion mattered. And few among that select group matters more than Jones.

“One of the university’s most influential and wealthiest graduates,” I wrote the day Bevin moved against the 22,000-student school, “is Humana co-founder David A. Jones Sr., who received a bachelor’s degree in business there in 1954.”

Jones and his wife, Betty Ashbury Jones, have long and extensive ties to UofL. She received a bachelor’s degree from the school in 1955, and the two went on to graduate school: David to Yale Law; and Betty, much later, to the French School at Vermont’s Middlebury College. (More on those two schools in a moment). Back in Louisville, Jones and a law partner, Wendell Cherry, launched the health-care company in 1961 that would become the Humana empire, starting with a single nursing home; they became millionaires after it went public in 1968.

Betty and David Jones.
A Depression-poor childhood

David served on the board of trustees for a time, and Betty taught French Conversation in the Continuing Education Department from 1993 to 2003. For their service to the school, the couple were among the first to be made members of the Arts and Sciences Hall of Honors, in 2007.

David didn’t come from money, and UofL — which he attended on a ROTC scholarship Continue reading “David Jones Sr., his alma mater UofL, and the politics of money and power in Louisville”

Slime time: In the genteel world of old-money philanthropy, pizza king Schnatter is busting loose

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

When Tom Jurich chases the money John Schnatter gives to charity every year, it’s the ever-prowling cats that pose competition.

No — not those ones. I’m referring to the snow leopard and other big cats at Louisville Zoo, just five miles from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, the University of Louisville colossus about to undergo a $55 million renovation that athletics director Jurich wants done in just two years.

Schnatter, 54, loves U of L. He’s donated more than $20 million to the 22,000-student school over the past decade, winning naming rights for his Louisville-based pizza chain for decades to come. (And Schnatter’s a Ball State graduate, to boot.)

Papa John's logoBut he also likes other charities — especially the zoo, according to the most recent IRS tax returns for his John H. Schnatter Family Foundation, which filed its 2015 return only last week. The returns show the foundation gave $111,000 to the zoo in 2012-2015; only one other recipient — U of L — got more, among the dozens of charities Schnatter and his wife Annette support. And that was on top of $1.1 million they donated to the zoo in 2008. To be sure, the zoo was just barely ahead of No. 3 on the foundation’s gift list (keep reading).

The returns offer an inside look at how one of the city’s richest couples — we’re talking $800 million — positions themselves in a pecking order where the right kind of philanthropy is the ticket to top-drawer society. This much is clear: the Schnatters don’t give a flying fig about old-money Louisville. They’re passing on virtually all the usual suspects: the Speed Museum, Actors Theatre, Kentucky Opera, the Fund for the Arts — cultural war horses favored by more established families like the Browns and their 150-year-old whiskey fortune, or the Binghams and their faded media empire from 1918.

Instead, the Schnatters devoted their relatively modest $1.9 million to 86 charities over the four years I examined, focused heavily on helping children and veterans; animal welfare and — crucially, for anxious development officers — advancing John Schnatter’s growing interest in free enterprise and limited government.

But he’s never been old money, anyway.

1980s: bustin’ out

After graduating from Ball State University in 1983, Schnatter started Papa John’s in a broom closet at his father’s tavern, Mike’s Lounge, which he famously saved from ruin with $2,800 he got selling his prized 1972 Camaro. Nearly 32 years and many millions of pies later, he stars in his own TV commercials blanketing the air, proving he’s not above getting dirty to make a sale — literally. In a Sony Pictures marketing tie-in this summer, he played a slimed Ghostbuster pizza delivery guy; that’s a still photo, top of page. (Can you imagine Brown-Forman Chairman George Garvin Brown IV dressed as a dancing mint julep for an Old Forester spot? Neither can I.)

Tom Jurich

No matter. Schnatter’s laughing all the way  to the bank. Today, Papa John’s has more than 4,700 restaurants in 38 countries and territories. Its 22,000 employees include 750 in Louisville. And his stake in the $2.8 billion behemoth just soared past $800 million for the first time. That’s a lot of loot that’s arrived relatively fast. On a split-adjusted basis, Papa John’s stock has increased six-fold in the past five years alone. The question over at U of L: How much of that will Jurich wrangle for his $55 million stadium project? Continue reading “Slime time: In the genteel world of old-money philanthropy, pizza king Schnatter is busting loose”

In Lee and Joan Thomas’ philanthropy, five-star giving without the five-star perks

By Jim Hopkins
Boulevard Publisher

A lot of big philanthropy comes with nice extras: private lunches hosted by ballet company directors; season tickets to the opera with box seats, and trusteeships that offer peerless networking with other A-listers. There’s nothing wrong with that; if you gotta keep the lights on and pay the heating bill, it sometimes takes a carrot or two to attract donors who wear a carat or three.


But there are plenty of other worthwhile charities that don’t offer the same social cachet — which leads me to Louisville’s Center for Women and Families, and the late Lee Thomas Jr., the retired businessman and philanthropist who died Tuesday at 90.

The center provides crucial support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. It runs a crisis hotline; two emergency shelters, and gives psychological and academic help for kids swept up in all that horror. I have Thomas and his wife Joan in mind because they gave the center $2.6 million last year, the bulk of the nearly $4 million their charitable foundation donated to 32 charities. That’s according to the Joan and Lee Thomas Foundation’s public annual IRS tax return for the year ended June 30, 2015; I leafed through it this morning.

To be sure, other generous Louisvillians give to the center, too. But what’s striking about the Thomas’ giving is the sheer concentration on charities that offer few of the five-star social extras. (KET tote bags don’t count.) This was workaday philanthropy to the Home of the Innocents, the Urban League, Planned Parenthood and other important but hardly glamorous causes; here’s a spreadsheet with all their 2015 donations.

The couple’s humility extended to their foundation’s official name, too, which barely identifies them: It’s simply called the J & L Foundation on charity tracker GuideStar.

Much more to come

Their contributions will no doubt continue; the foundation has a $19.5 million portfolio, enough to throw off nearly $1 million in annual contributions well into the future. Last year’s donations brought to $6.3 million the total given in 2013-2015 alone. It ranks in the top tier of Louisville’s biggest foundations and other non-profits based on asset size.

Vermont American logoThe Thomas’ focus on plain philanthropy is hardly surprising, because it reflects their Quaker faith; several of their other donations last year were to charities associated with the Friends General Conference.

Lee and Joan met at a Quaker work camp in 1948, The Courier-Journal says in his obituary. After marrying and moving to Louisville, in 1954 he started building up the former American Saw and Tool Co. — later called Vermont American Corp. — from a single-product supplier to Sears Roebuck & Co. into an international public corporation employing 5,000 people. It’s now a brand in the Robert Bosch Tool Co.

The Thomas’ were instrumental in establishing the ACLU’s Kentucky chapter in 1955, when local civil rights activists were defending a couple, Carl and Anne Braden, accused of being treacherous union sympathizers who fought racial segregation in housing. Lee Thomas also marched with the Rev. Martha Luther King Jr. in the city.

The ACLU mourned his death. “He put up the seed money to get our affiliate off the ground and continued to support our work for the next 61 years,” the chapter said on its Facebook page. “He was a giant for peace, justice, and equality for all. He will be missed, but his example will continue to inspire.”

Disclosure: I’m a card-carrying ACLU member and Planned Parenthood supporter.

Ali Center to salute McCain, Gossett, three others at annual awards ceremony

The Muhammad Ali Center said today it would honor leaders from the worlds of philanthropy, entertainment, and business at the fourth annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards, Sept. 17 in Louisville.

Muhammad Ali
In 1967.

This year’s will be the first since the Louisville native, prize fighter and globally famous humanitarian Muhammad Ali died, in June in Phoenix, after a decades-long battle against Parkinson’s disease. He was buried a week later at Cave Hill Cemetery during a funeral that drew luminaries from government, politics and entertainment across the world.

He and his wife Lonnie co-founded the Ali Center, which opened in November 2005, and attended each of the previous year’s Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards. She will speak at this year’s ceremony, and present several of the awards. The honorees:

  • Philanthropist and businesswoman Cindy Hensley McCain (top photo, left) will receive the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement; she is the wife of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
  • Academy Award-winning actor and humanitarian Louis Gossett Jr. (top, right) will get the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education.
  • Tony Award-winning actress, singer and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph will receive the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Global Citizenship.
  • Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and humanitarian Jon Secada will be honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award.
  • John Rosenberg of Prestonburg, Ky., an attorney and founding director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, will get the the Muhammad Ali Kentucky Humanitarian Award.

Here are the detailed biographies of the honorees provided by the Ali Center: Continue reading “Ali Center to salute McCain, Gossett, three others at annual awards ceremony”

‘The bottom line is, we’re a little bit ahead of our time. To me, the big shame is when you don’t dream big’

Greg Fischer

That’s Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, speaking to The Courier-Journal today about the unexpected failure of West Louisville FoodPort, which developers at Seed Capital Kentucky announced yesterday.

The Brown family donated $382,000 to the project since 2012, making the project’s collapse a rare defeat for the founding family of whiskey giant Brown-Forman.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post misattributed the quote to philanthropist Stephen Reiley, co-founder of Seed Capital.