More than 75 years of investing in the Great Lakes region.

The Joyce Foundation is rooted in the rich terrain of the Great Lakes.

For almost three quarters of a century, it has invested in improving the lives, livelihoods and well-being of the region’s people. The timeline below highlights how the Foundation has evolved over the decades.

  • 1948

    Beatrice Joyce Kean, sole heir of the Joyce family, establishes the Foundation with a $2,000 gift.

  • 1972

    Ninety percent of Joyce Kean’s estate is bequeathed to the Foundation upon her death, an amount in excess of $100 million. Professional staff is hired to manage it.

    Family estate in northern Minnesota, known as Nopeming, is sold to the Nature Conservancy.

  • 1973

    Higher education and cultural institutions are added as major beneficiaries, in addition to hospitals and health organizations. Nature Conservancy is granted $500,000 to preserve Nopeming.

  • 1976

    Annual giving reaches $10 million.

    First independent board member is named – Marion Trufant Hall, a botanist who is director of the Morton Arboretum.

  • 1977

    Joyce becomes the largest foundation in Illinois at the time. Board is expanded and professional financial advisers are retained.

  • 1978

    First annual report is published under President Charles U. Daly, identifying programmatic interests in culture, education, environment and conservation, government, and health and social services in the Midwest. Focus begins on longer term research and policy development.

  • 1982

    Environment program makes 10-year, $20 million commitment to conserving Great Lakes water and Midwest soil. Foundation begins giving to Midwest higher education causes.

  • 1984

    Culture program identifies goal of making arts available to underserved communities. By early 1990s, expanded to creating opportunities for artists and arts administrators of color.

    Education program begins investing in improving urban public schools and educational opportunities for underserved students. Democracy program refocuses on improving policies related to campaign finance and voting.

  • 1990

    Two institutions are funded and launched to track education reform: Catalyst Chicago, an influential newsmagazine, and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

    Environment program begins focusing on electricity generation and conservation.

  • 1993

    Grant-making begins for research and policy development in preventing gun violence, and for treating it as public health issue. Democracy program begins focus on influence of money in politics.

  • 1994

    Barack Obama, a University of Chicago law school lecturer and community organizer, joins the board. (1994-2002)

  • 1995

    Joyce supports creation of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research (today the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy).

  • 1998

    National Violent Death Reporting System is launched with Joyce funds.

  • 2000

    Three “Millenium Initiatives” are introduced to mark the turn of century, including support for a Chicago Climate Exchange.

  • 2003

    The Joyce Awards is announced to fund cultural institutions to commission new works by artists of color – the only arts prize dedicated to honoring artists across the Midwest.

    Education program begins to focus on teacher quality and effectiveness.

  • 2006

    “Shifting Gears Initiative” is launched, coordinating adult basic education, workforce development and community and technical college systems to better serve low-skilled workers.

  • 2010

    Joyce begins funding the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence.

  • 2012

    Army Corps of Engineers is funded to study options for separating Great Lakes watershed from Mississippi River system, an option in preventing invasive Asian carp from reaching the lakes.

  • 2017

    Foundation assets top $1 billion for the first time.

  • 2018

    Under President Ellen Alberding, Foundation mission is updated to promote racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.

    Gun violence prevention portfolio is expanded to include criminal justice reform, Education and Economic Mobility programs are merged, Democracy program shifts to focus on fair elections, voting rights, and public interest media.

  • 2020

    The Lend A Hand Fund is launched to support BIPOC-led and -serving community organizations in Chicago.

  • 2021

    Journalism Program is established to support local, state and national media that shines a light on conditions we hope to change.

    The Joyce Awards to $75,000, up from $50,000, in recognition of critical work by artists of color, especially during a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Two years later it increased again to $100,000.

  • 2023

    The Joyce Foundation celebrates its 75th anniversary!