a tribute to leo

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Leo Adler left $20 million to Baker City in 1995. Twenty years later, his foundation is worth $24 million, and the trustees have awarded $27 million in scholarships and grants.


  • Baker City Herald

    DFriday, June 19, 2015A TribuTe To Leo

    By Lisa BrittonFor the Baker City Herald

    Leo Adler died more than 20 years ago, but the man still walks among us today.

    Those are the words of Gene Rose, Adlers longtime attorney and a trustee of the Leo Adler Foundation.

    Hes going to be here forever. For all time, Rose says.

    Leo Adler was born June 21, 1895, in Baker City.

    His family moved into a two-story Italianate house on Main Street when he was four, and thats where he lived for the rest of his life, until his death on Nov. 2, 1993, at age 98.

    His first love and only love was Baker, Rose says. I have never met a man more dedicated to a community than Leo.

    When Rose moved his law practice from Baker to Ontario in 1953, Adler was not impressed.

    He was so unhappy about that, Rose says.

    Adler switched to a differ-ent local lawyer, but rehired Rose when Rose returned to Baker in 1985.

    I helped him with the document that now controls where his money goes, Rose says.

    So just who was Adler, whose legacy will continue indefinitely?

    He was a man who built a business in magazine distribution, and was a very savvy investor.

    He also considered Baker his family.

    As he aged, Adler slowly closed off sections of his large house, and by the time of his death he used only the kitchen, his office and his bedroom and bath-room.

    He never spent any money on updating the house never even added

    electrical outlets for the sec-ond story.

    Rose said visitors wouldnt enter through the front door for fear of falling through the floor.

    But Adler did give his money to worthy organiza-tions and projects.

    Norm Kolb was Adlers longtime accountant. He said each year Adler would come in with his tax infor-mation all typed up, includ-ing his income for the year.

    Hed say, Norm, this is what its going to be. How much can I give away?

    His willAs per his will, his money

    established the Leo Adler Foundation with the direc-tion that 60 percent go to college scholarships and 40 percent to community grants.

    But neither Rose nor Kolb knew how much Adler was worth.

    He didnt even know, Rose says of Adler.

    His stock certificates were stored in a safe deposit box.

    He was an investor, not a speculator, Kolb said. He bought stock. He listened and took their advice.

    It took two days to sort through Adlers papers, and then the news came that this man, who never spent any money on his house, had left more than $20 million to benefit the com-munity.

    I knew what was in the will, Rose says. Baker was born again.

    Since 1995, when the

    Foundation started doling out Adlers money, it has given out $16,894,474 in scholarships to students from Baker County and North Powder.

    Community grants total $10,814,274.

    We get the incredibly hard job to give this money out, Rose said of the trust-ees, who include himself, Norm Kolb, Dianne Elling-son, Tabor Clarke, Chuck Hofmann, Jack Wilson and Michael Sullivan, who rep-resents U.S. Bank.

    The Foundation has given

    out more than $27 million in 20 years, and the fortune is now worth $24,311,153.

    That is $4 million more than when it started.

    See why hes still here? And always will be? Rose says.

    See Adler/Page 2D

    Hes going to be here forever

    Leo AdLer Left $20 miLLion to BAker City in 1995. twenty yeArs LAter, his foundAtion is worth $24 miLLion, And the trustees hAve AwArded $27 miLLion in sChoLArships And grAnts

    S. John Collins file photo/ Baker City Herald

    Leo Adler lived his entire life in Baker City. When he died in 1993, he left the majority of his fortune to benefit the community.

    S John Collins/Baker City Herald

    The Leo Adler Foundation gave $401,500 to help build the Baker Sports Complex.

    His first love and only love was Baker. Gene Rose, Adlers longtime attorney

    S. John Collins / Baker City Herald

    The Leo Adler Memorial Parkway is about two

    miles long and follows Powder River for most

    of that distance.

    I knew what was in the will. Baker was born again.

    Gene Rose, on finding out that Adler had left $20 million to fund scholarships and grants in Baker County and North Powder

  • Baker City Herald

    2DFriday, June 19, 2015A TribuTe To Leo

    Continued from Page 1D

    His moneyRose rattles off Adlers

    contributions so fast you can hardly keep track:

    Leo bought every ambu-lance the fire department owns.

    Nearly $900,000 has gone to the Baker City hospital.

    Close to $300,000 to Cross-roads Carnegie Art Center.

    About $102,000 has enabled area youth to ski or snowboard on Fridays in a program at Anthony Lakes Mountain Resort.

    The Baker Sports Com-plex was granted $401,500, Little League has received $241,000 and Babe Ruth nearly $117,000 all fittingbecause Adler loved baseball, and attended 23 consecutive World Series.

    Rose said at first he wor-ried that other charitable foundations would stop giving money to Baker City projects once the Adler Foun-dation was established.

    He neednt have worried in fact, projects are often more successful if theyre supported by Adler first.

    Weve become the Good Housekeeping seal, Rose says. If we bless it, they will look at it.

    One example he gives is the Baker Family YMCA project to create a new fitness center. Executive director Heidi Dalton lever-aged $75,000 of Adler funds to secure $815,000 in other grant money.

    Mind-boggling, Dalton says. Leo Adler was abso-lutely critical. I cant say enough good things about how Leo was the catalyst for what we were able to ac-complish.

    For the Build a Band-stand project, Adler granted $40,000 and then the Ford Family Foundation contrib-uted $60,000. That project, after years of being in the fundraising stage, is set to be complete in August.

    The trustees, Rose says, are a committee of dream-ers that recognize a good project.

    The TrusteesWhen Adler died in 1993,

    his will specified that 60 percent of his fortune would go to scholarships for stu-dents graduating from Baker County and Powder Valley high schools, and 40 percent for community grants.

    At first therewas a com-mittee of three trustees.

    Then it grew to five.Now, seven trustees devote

    dozens of hours each year deciding how to distribute Adlers money.

    In the past 20 years they have given away $27 million 7,562 scholarships and 1,131 grants.

    That is a lot of education, and a lot of projects.

    There are obvious ones that depended on great com-munity support as well as Adler funds Baker Sports Complex, Crossroads Carn-egie Art Center, the National Historic Oregon Trail Inter-pretive Center and the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway, to name a few.

    But Adler funds have infiltrated nearly every part of life in Baker County $276,000 to MayDay (which included buying a safehouse for victims of domestic abuse), $252,000 to The Salvation Army, $875,500 to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center, more than $80,000 to North Powder School.

    Adler funds have helped outfit rural fire departments with safety equipment and advanced technology, and have bought every ambu-lance for the Baker City Fire Department.

    The seven trustees of the Adler committee hash out the decisions through heated discussions, Sullivan said.

    In every decision, there are very active opinions, Sul-livan said.

    Trustees review applica-tions ahead of time, then decide who to interview for more information.

    We learn more. We see what kind of people they are, Ellingson said. You cant meet everybody, but its always nice when you can.

    When it comes down to a final decision, the trustees rarely vote unanimously.

    Sometimes the vote is as close as 4-3.

    Its never unanimous, Kolb said with a laugh.

    But they do all agree on one thing Adlers will rules

    the decision.They return to Adlers will

    again and again, seeking his guidance as they distribute his money.

    Our job as a committee is to not do the things we like or want. We look to those who were close to Leo, Sul-livan says about Kolb and Rose.

    Anything that benefited Baker, Leo was 150 percent for it, Kolb said. Baker was the best place in the world as far as he was concerned.

    Do you think weve hon-ored Leo? Ellingson asked Rose during a recent trustee meeting.

    Rose doesnt even hesitate.Oh yeah. I do, he says.

    Nothing made Leo happier than to see somebody do good.

    The scholarships have done just that.

    Applicants must meet five criteria for a scholarship:

    Graduate of a high school in Baker County or Powder Valley High School, or have acquired a GED from an educational institu-tion in Baker County

    Enroll and complete a minimum of 12 credit hours per term or semester (nine for graduate students) in an accredited college, university, technical or vocational school

    Demonstrate a need for financial assistance

    Have good moral char-acter, demonstrate good citizenship and respect for the law

    Have a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or better.

    That required GPA is lower than is mandated for many scholarships.

    We determined early

    on that Leo wanted to give them a chance, Rose said.

    Many times, Kolb said, students earn better grades at college than in high school.

    Students are eligible for a scholarship for up to 15 terms or 10 semesters.

    Students who gradu-ated from Baker County or Powder Valley schools before the Foundation began are also eligible for a scholarship, whether for undergraduate studies or a graduate program.

    Although the students go to many different schools, Rose emphasizes the num-bers for Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

    Each year, about