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History of the Foundation

The impetus for starting a foundation in 1946 came from the family’s concern for the many local charities they supported. They realized that conditions that typically follow economic depressions and wars could affect their ability to support charities in time of greatest need. A philanthropic philosophy thus evolved:

Allow the more prosperous years to provide for the lean ones.


Trust Indenture creating the Galveston Fund is signed by the five donors (I.H. Kempner, Daniel W. Kempner, R. Lee Kempner, Stanley E. Kempner and Harris L. Kempner) and the five founding trustees (Daniel W. Kempner, R. Lee Kempner, Harris L. Kempner, I.H. Kempner, Jr., and Frances A. Lynch).

Asset value began at $38,500; trustees approved grants to seven churches totaling $1,300.


Galveston Fund name changed to Harris and Eliza Kempner Fund to honor progenitors.


By terms of the Last Will and Testament of Daniel W. Kempner, the Jeane B. Kempner Fund was established to provide fellowships for graduates of The University of Texas Medical Branch to pursue advanced studies. Approximately $5 million has been awarded from this Fund.


By the terms of the Last Will and Testament of Gladys Kempner, the Kemper Park Fund was established for repairs and improvements to Kempner Park.

The trustees established a Visiting Professorship at The University of Texas Medical Branch in memory of Daniel W. Kempner.

The I.H. Kempner, Jr. Scholarship Endowment was established at Harvard College in memory of Mr. Kempner.


The first student loans were made. This program, now the Harris L. Kempner Student Loan Program, has made available more than $2 million in loans circulated to over 500 students.


The Family Matching Gifts Program began. Since its inception, about $5 million charitable contributions by family members have been matched by the Fund.


The I.H. Kempner Professorship in Human Genetics was established at The University of Texas Medical Branch.


The Gladys and R. Lee Kempner Professorship in Child Psychiatry was established at The University of Texas Medical Branch.


The Harris L. Kempner Professorship in Humanities in Medicine was established at the University of Texas Medical Branch.


The Jennifer L. Ezell Memorial Scholarship Fund was established.


The Harris L. Kempner Memorial Award was established to benefit organizations selected by his widow, Ruth Levy Kempner.  After the death of Mrs. Kempner in 2008, resources were merged to the main fund for general purposes.


In recognition of Leonora K. Thompson’s service as chair of the Fund, a Community Enrichment Award was established in her name with a revolving fund to provide seed money for an annual benefit event for The Grand 1894 Opera House.


The Advisory Committee system was established to involve third and fourth generation family members in the Fund’s grant program; they review and recommend for funding proposals of a global nature.


The Fund initiated Program Related Investments to provide low-interest loans for residential and commercial community development projects.


The University of Texas Medical Branch established the Fannie Kempner Adoue Professorship on Cognitive Rehabilitation in appreciation of a grant from the Fund toward that initiative.


With assets values at $43 million the Fund will continue to provide small grants that fill a gap, act as a catalyst, give new ideas a jump-start, and help existing, well-run organizations to continue to operate.


The directors reinforced their philanthropic commitment to Galveston with added emphasis on improving the health and well being of Galveston families.


The Fund initiated “Green Grants” to assist non-profits in lowering energy costs and consumption by providing energy efficient lighting and retrofitting lighting fixtures in buildings owned by non-profits

In collaboration with a local foundation the Fund made short term PRI’s to nonprofits after Hurricane Ike. The more than $1.3 million loaned allowed local nonprofits to access about $40 million in Federal Social Service Block Grant funding.


Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund
2201 Market Street Suite 1250
Galveston, Texas 77550-1529

Phone: 409.762.1603
FAX: 409.762.5435

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