Winter Park, June 22, 2018 – It was 45 years ago today that a vibrant woman – a dancer, playwright, composer and actress who built and ran her own theater – founded an institution that changed the face of philanthropy in Florida. Edyth Bassler Bush wintered in Winter Park with her husband, Archibald Granville Bush, to escape subzero temperatures in Minnesota. She dedicated herself to “helping underprivileged and needy people help themselves, and to relieving human suffering.” She established the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation to carry out her legacy.
Since 1973, the Foundation has awarded more than $111 million to 876 nonprofit organizations, primarily in the areas of human services, education and health care, with a limited interest in the arts. In addition to making grants, the Foundation dedicates significant resources to developing and strengthening leadership of the independent sector. After decades of providing nonprofit management training out of the backroom of the office, the Foundation spun off the Non-Profit Advisory Service, which was later incorporated into the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College. Now called the Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College, the organization provides management and professional development courses for more than 4,000 nonprofit leaders annually.
Edyth Bush was a prominent figure in the Chicago arts community when she met “Archie.” The couple married and invested her modest dowry in Archibald’s workplace, a struggling sandpaper company “that he had a good feeling about” and with whom he had moved up from bookkeeping to sales. By the end of his career, Archibald was the Chairman, CEO and – together with Edyth – the largest shareholder of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (better known today as 3M).
Upon her husband’s death, Edyth made the permanent move to Winter Park and worked with her trusted advisors to assist local charitable organizations. She was most interested in early childhood education and programs serving the blind, the aged and the infirmed. She also supported the performing arts and became a benefactor of the Central Florida Civic Theatre. When she died in 1972, the Foundation Board made a significant gift to the Civic Theatre to complete the construction of what became the Edyth Bush Theatre in Loch Haven Park. It is now the largest theater within the Orlando Repertory Theatre complex.
David Odahowski has been with the Foundation for 28 years and has lead the organization as President and CEO since 1993. “My predecessors, Dave Roberts and Cliff Lee, were Minnesota lawyers with foundation experience. I was a Minnesota lawyer with foundation experience who, for one summer, worked at 3M.” David has continued the legacy of helping nonprofits be better managed, governed and led.
The Foundation plays a leadership role in numerous sector building organizations including the Florida Philanthropic Network, the Florida Nonprofit Alliance and the Philanthropy Roundtable, which connects philanthropists from around the country. It also helped establish the Bush Executive Center at the Crummer Graduate School at Rollins College, A Gift for Teaching, the Health Care Center for the Homeless, Hands on Orlando and the Community Foundation of Central Florida (now the Central Florida Foundation). For several years, Foundation leaders have been working to bring about the formation of a Children’s Trust in Central Florida, which is being considered once again as a ballot initiative.
Guided by Edyth’s vision, the Foundation remains dedicated to creating innovative civic solutions that help people help themselves and continues to inspire thoughtful collaborations to address our community’s most pressing needs.
Board Members are Richard J. Walsh, Chairman; Matthew W. Certo, Vice Chairman & Corporate Secretary; David A. Odahowski, President & CEO; Elizabeth A. Dvorak; Anne B. Kerr, Ph.D.; Patricia J. Engfer; and John A. Riley. For more information on the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation, please visit www.edythbush.org.