Fred Morgan Kirby, a five-and-dime merchant, opened his first store in Wilkes-Barre, PA, in 1887. He merged his business with Frank Woolworth’s in 1912, bringing 94 stores to the merger and becoming one of the founders of the F.W. Woolworth Company.
The F. M. Kirby Foundation was endowed by Fred Morgan Kirby in 1931 and funded with approximately nine million dollars with the intention of continuing in perpetuity through generations of the family. The Foundation’s earliest grants were to hospitals, churches, and schools of significant importance to F. M. Kirby and his family. In particular, F. M. Kirby was a philanthropic supporter of the city of Wilkes-Barre, where his entrepreneurship began. Donations made to support the health of the city included money to build a health center in honor of his mother, the Angeline Elizabeth Kirby Memorial Health Center, and a park in the center of the city, Kirby Park. Fred Morgan Kirby served as president of the Foundation until 1940 at which point his son, Allan P. Kirby, already well-established in the business world through the Alleghany Corporation, succeeded his father as president.
In 1967, Allan’s son, Fred M. Kirby II, assumed leadership. Through careful management of assets, Fred M. Kirby II greatly enlarged the Foundation’s endowment and stature in the communities served over the course of forty years. After an incredibly successful term spanning more than 56 years as the leader of the Foundation, Fred M. Kirby II passed away on February 8, 2011. His son, S. Dillard Kirby, succeeded him as President in April, 2010.
In 2015, an important initiative, referred to as the “Kirby Alliance,” resulted in the allocation of approximately ⅓ of the Foundation’s corpus to three “cousin” Donor Advised Funds/Foundations. This has reunited mutual philanthropy efforts among the broader Kirby family.
Fred M. Kirby and Allan P. Kirby initiated the Foundation’s funding during the 1930’s and 1940’s with less than a dozen organizations with very focused interests. Much of the early focus was on education, health, public policy, and religion, with support to a small group of organizations important to the family. Under Fred M. Kirby II’s leadership, the Foundation expanded support to non-profit organizations in education, the arts and humanities, human services, and medical research, among others. Importantly, these same programmatic areas and emphasis on the family philanthropic interest remain at the core of the Foundation’s support today.
Today, the Foundation operates out of the historic Sansay House in downtown Morristown, New Jersey.
F. M. Kirby Foundation
Fred M. Kirby opens his first five and dime store in Wilkes-Barre, PA
Fred M. Kirby endows the F. M. Kirby Foundation with nine million dollars
Allan P. Kirby assumes leadership of the Foundation
Fred M. Kirby II begins his 56-year tenure as leader
Foundation’s Investment Committee formed
S. Dillard Kirby named Executive Director