Our History

The Fresh Air & Convalescent Aid Society

Mrs. Starbuck Smith, Jr., Fresh Air & Convalescent Aid Society president, GCF director Mark Upson and GCF founder William E. Anderson. (Used with permission, The Cincinnati Post, May 2003) 
Top: Mrs. Starbuck Smith, Jr., Fresh Air & Convalescent Aid Society president, GCF director Mark Upson and GCF founder William E. Anderson. (Used with permission, The Cincinnati Post, May 2003) 

In 1963, a group of Greater Cincinnati area business people was intrigued by the success enjoyed by community foundations in other cities, and they wanted to see a community foundation established in Cincinnati.

At the same time, the board of the Fresh Air and Convalescent Aid Society, which was founded in 1884 as an organization that brought women and children from crowded tenement areas during the summer for two weeks of planned recreation in the country, realized that its mission had become outdated.

The Fresh Air and Convalescent Aid Society decided to disband and needed an alternative charitable use for its $600,000 endowment. The business leaders and the Fresh Air Board came together and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation was born. The Fresh Air and Convalescent Aid Society’s endowment became GCF’s first unrestricted fund.

What was life like in 1963? Explore and reminisce on Pinterest

Read more about our founding in Forty Years of Inspiring Philanthropy: A History of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, 1963-2003 [PDF]

Early Leadership

William E. AndersonWilliam E. Anderson

An early GCF report called William E. Anderson the "leader and guiding spirit" of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. This transplanted Cincinnatian indeed played a major role in gathering support for a community foundation and getting the right people together to make it happen.

Andy, as he was known to his friends, brought the community foundation idea with him from Cleveland, where he had been an attorney and bank trust officer before joining Cincinnati’s Central Trust Company (now PNC Bank) in 1935. By the late 1950’s, he was senior vice president and trust officer there, and spreading the word about the benefits a community foundation could bring to Greater Cincinnati.

Mark UpsonMark Upson

Fortunately, Mark Upson agreed to serve — for no compensation — as GCF’s first Director and held the post through GCF’s critical formative years. Then a recent Procter & Gamble retiree, Upson devoted much of his time and energy to managing the Foundation. Upson was seldom in the company of any Cincinnatian that he didn’t find an opportunity to talk about the Foundation and what its growth could mean to the quality of life in Greater Cincinnati.

"Mark Upson was coming in from the golf course when he was called to the phone. It was Anderson, who described the new enterprise and said, ‘I’ve told them I’d take the job only if you would agree to be Executive Director.'"

- From They Helped Shape Our City by Oliver Gale

Jacob E. DavisJacob E. Davis

Jacob E. Davis, then President of The Kroger Co., was involved in the initial conversations about establishing a community foundation. He served as the founding chairman of the Distribution Committee from 1963-74. Davis returned to take the helm of GCF in 1978, serving as the Foundation’s Volunteer Director until 1987.

According to Bill Friedlander, a later Volunteer Director and board chair during Davis’ tenure, Davis knew what he wanted for the Foundation, but "Jake rarely had a position we didn’t agree with." He had strong opinions about the direction the Foundation should take, but Davis was a "generous thinker" and was able to be flexible and adapt as times changed. Learn more about the Jacob E. Davis Volunteer Leadership Award.


720 E. Pete Rose Way,
Suite 120
Cincinnati, OH 45202


Email Us

Stay Connected.

Sign-up to receive news and
learn about upcoming events.