The Joyce Foundation mourns the passing of founding Board member and former Board Chair Jack Anderson, who died May 22, 2023 at age 92. Anderson is largely responsible for establishing the vision of the organization and building it into one of Illinois’ largest philanthropies and an influential steward of social and environmental initiatives in the Great Lakes region.
Anderson was co-chair of the Joyce Board of Directors from 1984-1987, Board Chair from 1987-2011, and an emeritus director since then.
“This is a tremendous loss for the Foundation. Jack was our North Star, the architect of our vision and funding initiatives, and a great champion of issues impacting the Great Lakes region,” said Joyce President & CEO Ellen Alberding. “He was a wonderful mentor. We are forever enriched by his leadership and determination to grow this institution into a formidable and evergreen presence in the Great Lakes and beyond."
John T. “Jack” Anderson, a graduate of DePauw University, Harvard Law School, and a U.S. Navy veteran, was one of the last links to Joyce Founder Beatrice Joyce Kean. Kean was the sole heiress to a family business who created the foundation in 1948 with a modest $2,000 gift to be used “for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, and educational purposes.” Anderson joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors in 1984 and was appointed a trustee of Kean’s estate upon her death in the early 1970s — when more than $100 million flowed from her estate into the Foundation, making it Illinois’ largest philanthropy at the time.
Anderson took a leading role in creating the Foundation’s signature initiatives; namely, pushing for regional and federal efforts to restore and preserve the Great Lakes. Among other roles, he served as a director of the Center for the Great Lakes, which Joyce created, and was a director on the Great Lakes Protection Fund. The two organizations pressed for Great Lakes protection policy and established an endowment to maintain the biological integrity of the ecosystem.
Anderson said in a 2018 interview that he realized the Foundation had a rare and important opportunity, as well as the resources, to “punch above its weight” in having substantive influence on policy and research regionally and nationally.
“There we were with a foundation that could do anything, and had over a hundred million dollars,” Anderson said. “We said, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ We didn’t want to be an organization where we just handed out money. We wanted to try to accomplish something.”
Tolerating risk and playing the “long game” on investments were also benchmarks of Anderson’s leadership. In 1993, as board chairman, Anderson decided to green light a proposal that launched the Foundation’s funding of research on gun violence at a time when few philanthropies were investing in it.
Over the next 25 years, Joyce invested more than $30 million in grants that yielded hundreds of scientific publications, influenced policy, and kept research alive when government funding evaporated. It also inspired attacks from the National Rifle Association and gun-rights activists and organizations.
“I like a little risk,” Anderson said in 2018, “and the controversy didn’t bother me, either.”
Said Jose Alvarez, current chairman of Joyce’s Board of Directors: “We would not be who we are or have the influence that we do without the steady, visionary and optimistic leadership of Jack Anderson, who always pressed us to do more and always knew that we could. We carry that ethos to this day as our work continues to impact lives for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.”
About The Joyce Foundation
Joyce is a nonpartisan, private foundation that invests in evidence-informed public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.