History

A Quarter-Century of Giving

Ethel Courtois and Jack Keller before their 1944 wedding

Ethel Courtois and Jack Keller before their 1944 wedding

For 25 years, nonprofit organizations in the greater Fox Valley region of northeastern Wisconsin have benefited from the philanthropic efforts of the J. J. Keller family. That quarter century of giving has resulted in nearly $50 million being distributed thanks to the generosity of three generations of Keller family members.

John J. “Jack” Keller enjoyed a very successful 50-year career in the publishing business, and his solid personal investment strategy provided the financial means to consider philanthropic opportunities. But the establishment of the family foundation had a very simple and personal origin:  Jack was stymied by what to present to his wife, Ethel, on her 70th birthday.  Knowing that throughout her lifetime she was best known for her giving heart, he finally settled on the formation of a family foundation.  It would allow them a way to work together to give back to the community in which they lived, worked and played for their entire lives.  She was thrilled, and for years the two reveled in their philanthropic work.  Hundreds of nonprofit causes benefited from that very special gift.

Jack and Ethel Keller in the downtown office of J. J. Keller & Associates, 1982

Jack and Ethel Keller in the downtown office of J. J. Keller & Associates, 1982

Following Ethel’s unexpected death in 2004, Jack carried on his family’s benevolent activities, involving a growing number of family members. As of Jack’s death in 2007, the Foundation – along with another fund the family had set up at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region – had provided over $17 million in funds to the community.  And that was just the beginning of their giving legacy.

The settlement of the Kellers’ personal estate – valued at $80 million at the time – was given to the J. J. Keller Foundation, Inc. That influx of money required the Board of Directors to embrace a more formalized structure, and in 2008, they made several significant moves to strengthen the organization.  Among them, the Foundation’s first executive director was hired, an online grant application system was implemented and a matching gifts program for employees of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. – the company Jack founded – was unveiled.

The giving spirit of Jack and Ethel is perpetuated by three generations of their family members. The Foundation Board of Directors is composed of their sons, Robert and James Keller, and grandchildren Marne Keller-Krikava and Brian Keller.  Other immediate family members are engaged in such philanthropic activities as serving on funding committees and doing site visits to nonprofits.