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Statement on the passing of former Kresge President Ted Taylor

Centennial, From the President, General Foundation News

Ted Taylor, former Kresge Foundation president

Alfred H. (Ted) Taylor), whose distinguished career included serving as president, vice president, board chair and board member of The Kresge Foundation, died Tuesday at age 93. Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson issued the following statement.

One aspect of the Kresge Centennial we are now embarking on should be a constant thanks for the privilege of working here – and an appreciation of the many who preceded us to establish the foundation of Kresge today. We have our high vantage point today only because we stand on their shoulders.

One of those broad sets of shoulders is that of Ted Taylor, who spent nearly three decades with Kresge as either an executive or board member, including nearly a decade as our first full-time president. That tenure stretched from the early 1970s to the beginning of this century and saw the Foundation move to its current location, saw some of its first non-capital challenge grants, a deepening involvement with the city of Detroit, the emergence of program officers, initiatives for science and HBCUs.

But beyond the administrative achievements — I understand from those who knew him — Ted left the imprint of his personality and spirit in the organization as well. In an oral history, he said, “I viewed my association with Kresge as kind of a love affair.” Kresge Vice President CFO and Chief Administrative Officer Amy Robinson said the other day that when she and Director of Grants Management Genise Singleton emailed one another, reminiscing about Ted, “the word that came to mind for both of us was kind.”

That was after we received news from Ted’s son that Ted had passed away at age 93 at the Village at Penn State, the retirement community where he lived. “It was not a shock and had been expected sooner. He died peacefully,” John Taylor let us know. (You can read the full obituary with a full list of survivors and suggested memorial donations here.)

Alfred H. (Ted) Taylor came to us in 1972 as vice president for administration, following a career mostly in banking, but including two years as associate director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, a creation of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. He’d also spent three years on active duty as a Navy officer, following graduation from Williams College.

His first major task on arriving at Kresge was to oversee implementation of the 1969 Tax Reform Act. In philanthropy, we talk often about our mandate to spend 5 percent of assets annually. That was introduced by the reform act, and it required Kresge to move overnight in 1972 from about $8 million in annual grants to about $26 million! No small task.

Hand in hand with the new spending target, Kresge had to expand staff and expand beyond its then Birmingham space to our current location, our old Victorian farm house with an initial 10,000-square-foot addition designed by architect William Kessler.

In other words, Ted was involved in head-spinning change from Day 1. And the pace seems to have been unrelenting as he ascended to the expanded role of a fulltime president in 1978 – when Bill Baldwin stepped down to become board chairman, succeeding Stanley Kresge; Ted, in turn stepped down to become board chair in 1987 when John Marshall became president. And after leaving the chairmanship in 1993, he gave us another eight years as a board member.

As I mentioned, Ted was instrumental in early non-capital grants, involvement with the city and science and HBCU initiatives. He was also deeply involved in the creation of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and Independent Sector, in the evolution of program staff and the program officers, in our early grantee perception surveys, in the expansion of our board, and more.

Robinson, who joined the foundation staff of about 20 in 1995, recalls Taylor’s style of checking in with each staffer, making all “feel connected to the board and organization in a more meaningful way. It was his way of culture-building,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine the Kresge of today without the administrative acumen, wisdom and “culture-building” of Ted Taylor through a period of such enormous transformation.