Beatrice Joyce Kean (1923-1972) became sole heir to the Joyce family lumber fortune at 21, and in 1948, at age 25, established the Joyce Foundation. Described as a very private person, she was regarded as a savvy businesswoman with a sharp grasp of the operations of the family companies. When chairing corporate board meetings, she displayed what one contemporary called “the ability to cut to the heart of matters under discussion or dispute.”

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Our History

The Joyce Foundation was established in 1948 by Beatrice Joyce Kean of Chicago, the sole heir of the Joyce family of Clinton, Iowa, which built its wealth in the lumber and related industries.

During Mrs. Kean’s lifetime, the foundation had modest assets, and was chiefly a vehicle for her personal charitable giving to hospitals, universities, and the Community Fund (now United Way). Upon her death in 1972, Mrs. Kean left 90 percent of her estate to the Joyce Foundation – more than $100 million. Executives from the family lumber company and its attorneys stepped in to run the foundation initially, supporting work generally connected to her interests and conservation of natural resources.

In 1978, the foundation hired its first professional executive director, Charles U. Daly. By that time Mrs. Kean’s estate had been settled, and the foundation reported assets that year of more than $125 million and grants of more than $7.5 million. Mr. Daly and his successors focused the foundation’s work on addressing major problems facing the Midwest region, including protecting the Great Lakes, improving educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged residents, supporting cultural organizations, and improving public policies and public participation in government. Health-related grants in the 1980s were eventually phased out, and in the early 1990s the foundation launched a program to reduce gun violence using a preventive, public health approach.

The foundation has continued to evaluate and adjust its grant making to reflect critical issues in the Great Lakes region, given room by its 1948 charter to grow and develop with the times. Its grant making is guided by values reflected in its mission statement:

The mission of the Joyce Foundation is to support policies that improve quality of life, promote safe and healthy communities, and build a just society for the people of the Great Lakes region.