The Kinsman Foundation

The Kinsman Family and History of the Foundation

Betty Thompson, born in Greensboro, Pennsylvania in 1908, spent her childhood in her rural hometown on the Monongahela River learning to appreciate the natural beauty around her. When it was time for college, she traveled to West Virginia University in Morgantown by her uncle’s ferryboat. There she met and married Rollie Clarke and eventually traveled west to Oregon with him in the 1940’s. She enjoyed her life as a suburban Clackamas County homemaker and amateur handcrafter. She married John Kinsman in 1964 and enjoyed their Oatfield Road home until her death in 1989. Betty was heir to a substantial part of the Thomas & Betts Corporation of Elizabeth, New Jersey, an early manufacturer of electrical components.

John Kinsman was born in 1918 in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, and moved to the Milwaukie area very early in life with his parents Alexander, a painter, and Grace, a private nurse. As a teenager during the Great Depression, he struck out on his own in north central Oregon. He learned principles and methods of construction in the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Seabees during World War II. Returning home to his wife Dolly and his children Paige and Keith, he began a custom residential design and construction contracting business. In later life he was a successful investor and banker. He built his dream house for his wife Betty in 1964, where he lived until his death in 2001.

John and Betty decided in 1983 to establish a private family foundation as a vehicle for philanthropy and as a tax-saving measure. They were aided by the Foundation’s current attorney, David M. Munro of the Miller Nash law firm. The first board of directors was John Kinsman, Elizabeth T. Kinsman, Keith Kinsman, Ford Black (our accountant), and J. Jerry Inskeep, Jr. (our investment advisor).

The initial Articles of Incorporation identified grant interests as medical research, wildlife preservation, historical preservation and restoration, and organization of hospices. Several months later, the Articles were amended to exclude grants for scholarships or educational purposes, reflecting John and Betty’s philosophy that these important areas should not depend on private foundation support. Further modifications have resulted in today’s interest areas.

For many years the Foundation operated without paid staff, making grants appropriate for a very small foundation. After the bulk of John and Betty’s combined estates became Foundation assets, Keith Kinsman and Pamela Reynolds became its first full time employees. The Foundation still uses as its office the construction contracting office John built in 1951.