Leo Adler's legacy

June 20, 2002 12:00 am
Leo Adler, shown here in middle life, built a career on magazine sales and distribution, based in Baker City. Adler never married; he left his considerable estate to benefit the Baker community. (Submitted photograph).
Leo Adler, shown here in middle life, built a career on magazine sales and distribution, based in Baker City. Adler never married; he left his considerable estate to benefit the Baker community. (Submitted photograph).

By BRENNA KNOWLES

Of the Baker City Herald

Leo Adler's first gifts to the Baker community were in 1939 when he gave a new pumper truck to the Baker City Fire Department and sent steaks to night duty firemen.

Today, nine years after his death, Adler is still giving.

"Leo loved Baker and his trust will continue to reflect his love in perpetuity," said Marlyn Norquist, who oversees the Adler account at U.S. Bank.

The Leo Adler Foundation has awarded over $10 million for scholarships and community projects since 1995. Last year the foundation gave $447,050 to community projects and $1,043,900 for 434 students to attend universities and technical or vocational schools.

The scholarship money works its way back into the Baker community when students choose to return home after their schooling to find work.

"After awarding scholarships since 1995, we are beginning to see graduates come back to live in Baker as teachers, nurses, CPAs and many other occupations benefitting the community," Norquist said.

Gene Rose, a longtime friend of Adler and his personal attorney, said Adler would be happy if students decided not to return home. "Leo would be very proud if somebody came back, but he would be equally proud if somebody went out and accomplished something in the world, too," Rose said.

This year, the foundation has awarded 29 scholarships to non-traditional students. Norquist said these individuals are part-time students that participate in a special non-traditional scholarship program through Blue Mountain Community College or Eastern Oregon University. She said the program was "created to assist students who cannot attend school fulltime because of jobs, small children, job re-training and economic needs."

Norquist said the targeted students for this program are single parents and low-income family providers who live near Baker, need more training for higher paying jobs, and need financial assistance for tuition.

In his will, Adler handed over all decision making powers to the Leo Adler Foundation committee. Norquist said, "Personally, I feel that the committee members, past, present and future, will continue to serve Leo Adler's wishes in granting scholarships to help students further their education and hopefully return to contribute their talents to the Baker community."

Rose said the committee's philosophy — to give every student in the Baker area a chance — is constantly evolving.

However, he said that the committee is aware that they can do harm and good with grant money. "It's dangerous to relieve people of their own obligations," he said, "We're always looking for ways to leverage the human spirit. We want people to do something good, not just take the money, but give back, too.

"Everything we do is reflective of what Leo would have wanted and we're pretty happy with the way we've done it."

Leo Adler Scholars

The Leo Adler foundation is renewing 282 scholarships totaling $530,300 and awarding 165 first-time scholarships totaling $339,000 for the 2002-2003 academic year.

One of those renewal scholarships was awarded to Stacy Hofmann. Hofmann graduated from Baker High School in 1998 and used Leo Adler funds for three of her four years at the University of Southern California where she graduated with honors this spring. Since the scholarship can be used for five years, Hofmann will use her renewal funds for her first two years of graduate school at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

"The great thing about the Adler Foundation is that scholarships allow less debt upon graduation, as opposed to loans, and that the Leo scholarship, combined with the one from my university, accounted for almost half of my tuition each year," Hofmann said.

She said the Adler scholarship has motivated her to keep working hard throughout her studies because she knew the renewal was partly contingent on her academic performance.

The Community Fund

Norquist said she has found Baker County residents to be supportive of ideas that improve their community. "The people work hard, participate in local fundraisers, assist the elderly, provide services for the needy and are not afraid of change. I have observed a sense of pride in all Baker County residents as well as the resilience that came to Baker with the pioneer settlers so many years ago."

Adler's generosity is highly visible in Baker City. Bob Evans, volunteer coordinator of Leo Adler Day, said that the Baker Sports Complex, the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway and improvements to the Baker City Library and Sumpter Dredge are good examples of the $4.56 million in Adler community funds granted since 1995 being used wisely.

Evans is organizing Leo Alder Day on June 21 so that community members have "a chance to remember Leo and what he's done to make this community better."

He would also like Baker residents to view Adler funds as a helping hand rather than a hand out. When Evans saw the amount of money given to community groups and students by the Leo Adler Foundation he called it "an impressive contribution to the betterment of Baker County."

Rose feels that the most visible projects that have come from the Adler community fund are the Baker Sports Complex and the Adler House Museum. "Leo would be very proud," he said because these projects are a "perfect illustration of the community using large grants properly to create first rate facilities for this town."

For more information about Leo Adler, the Leo Adler Foundation, or to determine if you or your organization qualifies for funding, visit www.leoadler.com.

Leo Adler Scholarships since 1995, by school:

Baker, 2270, $4,870,000

Burnt River, 97,$218,500

Huntington, 48, $105,200

Pine Eagle 515, $1, 122, 200

Powder Valley, 290, $635,600

Total: 3220, $6,951,500