It’s not hard to figure out where Foellinger Foundation got its name—the Foellinger family were generous leaders in the Allen County community. Their lives were governed by the tenets of excellence, self-sufficiency and strong leadership. From the Foellinger family’s philanthropic initiation to the investments in excellence that the Foellinger Foundation makes today—here’s how we got to where we are.
The Foellinger Family
Esther Deuter (1890-1969) and Oscar Foellinger (1885-1936) were born and raised in Fort Wayne, descendants of German families that immigrated to the area in the mid-1800s. They married in 1909 in a ceremony at Oscar’s home. They had two children, Helene Foellinger (1910-1987) and Loretta Foellinger Teeple (1914-1950) who grew up on Indiana Avenue. Both daughters were outstanding students at South Side High School and returned to Fort Wayne after graduating from the University of Illinois.
Foellinger Values and Pastimes
The Foellinger family shared a great love for their community and a family tradition of civic involvement. They also loved the outdoors, and spent much of their leisure time horseback riding, camping, fishing and traveling to lakes and forests in the Midwest. Oscar firmly believed in the value of lifelong learning and self-improvement and instilled this in his daughters.
The Newspaper Business
Oscar Foellinger left school at a young age, but developed practical skills by working at several banks and newspapers. In 1918, he became a partner in The News Publishing Company, owner of The News-Sentinel, and in 1920 he purchased the newspaper. Under his leadership, it became a strong publication in the region with high circulation, continual innovations in content and photography and a “Building Fort Wayne” column promoting civic improvements.
From an early age, the newspaper business was Helene’s predominant interest. At South Side High School, she was the valedictorian, excelling in journalism and mathematics and serving as the editor of the newspaper. She was also the newspaper editor at University of Illinois.
Following her graduation in 1932, Helene began her career as a reporter and features writer for The News-Sentinel. Soon after, she became editor and columnist for the new women’s section. When Oscar died unexpectedly in 1936, Helene decided she was up to the challenge of running the newspaper. At age 25, she became the youngest publisher in the country and one of its few female publishers at the time.
In her 49-year tenure with the newspaper, Helene worked hard to earn the respect of her employees, her profession and her community. She received national attention for her achievements and work ethic. Before her retirement, Helene became the first woman inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, and she received numerous other awards recognizing her outstanding contributions to journalism, philanthropy and her community.
Esther and Helene Foellinger decided to focus their resources on the creation of a Foundation to carry forward their family’s tradition of civic involvement and private philanthropy for community betterment. Investments came from their personal assets and estates and contributions from The News-Sentinel.
In the early 1950’s, Helene Foellinger shared her personal vision, which addressed the role the community should take to encourage individuals. She said, “(organizations) should see that in providing assistance they are helping individuals to help themselves,” so that, in turn, they will be able to help others.
Helene and Esther Foellinger’s values include integrity, accountability, responsibility and results. These values provide the basis for the principles, which guide the Foundation in its work for the benefit of people in Allen County. As we continue to provide grants, leadership training, conferences and workshops to strengthen organizations that serve children and families, particularly those with the greatest economic need and least opportunity, we always do so with our donors’ intent in mind.