A Brief History

Fred Morgan Kirby, a five-and-dime-merchant who became one of the founders of F.W. Woolworth Company, endowed the Foundation in 1931 and served as president until 1940.

Allan P. Kirby succeeded his father in that role. In 1967, Allan’s son, Fred M. Kirby II, assumed leadership and, for over forty years, through careful management of assets, greatly enlarged its endowment and stature in the communities the Foundation serves.

After an incredibly successful term, spanning more than 56 years on the Board, Fred M. Kirby II passed away on February 8, 2011. His son, S. Dillard Kirby, succeeded him as President in April, 2010.

Fred Morgan Kirby II
F.M. Kirby II

For over 40 years, Fred Morgan Kirby II, carried forth the conservative values of his grandfather and father in both his personal life and through the philanthropic mission of the FM Kirby Foundation. His leadership at the foundation expanded support to non-profit organizations in education (including his beloved Lafayette College and Lawrenceville School), the arts and humanities, civic and public affairs, and human services among others. Most notably, he initiated the Foundation’s support of basic medical research, fighting various inflictions and, he was willing to take a risk on young scientists, investigative entrepreneurs, engaged in daring pursuits at world-class institutions and laboratories, including the F.M. Kirby Center at Rockefeller University and the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology at Scheie Eye Institute.

While he understood the importance of medical research, he was equally astute in addressing the less theoretical challenges that affect our everyday quality of life. F.M. Kirby understood the importance of organ donor awareness; recidivism among ex-offenders; nursing shortages in hospitals; the impact of overpopulation; smoking cessation; a healthy environment; protecting property rights; supporting individual rights; and promoting school choice. Before it was popular, F.M. Kirby’s philanthropy was about providing “winners” with consistent operating support over the long term. Some call this capacity building; F.M. Kirby deemed it practical.

During the 43 years of F.M. Kirby’s presidency, the Foundation’s portfolio grew from $15 million to a peak of over $500 million, while also distributing more than $440 million during his tenure. F.M. Kirby worked tirelessly for the Foundation, often on weekends, and strictly as a volunteer. He never looked for glory nor was recognition a condition of support, rather he lived the family motto: “Facta Non Verba” (Deeds not Words).