Our Story

james r thorpe

For nearly 50 years, the James R. Thorpe Foundation has been a committed grantmaking partner dedicated to making the greater Minneapolis area better for all its citizens. The James R. Thorpe Foundation was established in 1974 by James Ruggles Thorpe. Born in 1903, Jim was raised in Minneapolis and worked in the family business, Thorpe Brothers Real Estate Company, for 40 years. He retired in 1968, having served not only as president of the company but also in a variety of regional and state professional associations and the National Association of Realtors. 

 Jim maintained a lifelong commitment to education and personally helped many individuals obtain secondary and college degrees. Jim established scholarship funds at The Blake School and Princeton University, both of which he attended, as well as at Carleton College and Gustavus Adolphus College.  

 Following Jims example and interest in education, the Thorpe Foundations Board of Directors funded scholarships at AchieveMinneapolis and Hamline University in honor of Thorpe family members. Jim also cared about the healthy development of youth and supported the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA and the YWCA with gifts while living and bequests upon his death.  

 Jim invited several of his nieces and nephews to serve on the original Board of Directors, with one of them continuing to serve the Foundation today. The family leadership of the Foundation continues, with eight of Jims great nieces and nephews serving as directors. The current Board remains actively engaged in all aspects of the Foundations work, appreciating Jims values and interests, while at the same time adapting to evolving community needs.  

The Foundation continues its commitment to education and positive youth development by funding organizations that provide individual youth with the support and services needed for a successful and healthy transition to adulthood. In the last decade, support for the growing senior community has emerged as a funding priority. The Thorpe Foundation funds organizations that support vulnerable seniors as they age with dignity, independence, and connection. This includes support for services that allow seniors to remain in the home of their choice while staying connected to thetree community. 

The Foundation values an open grantmaking process that allows for learning about new community needs, ideas, and approaches. Through the decades, the Foundations active involvement in the community has led to special funding initiatives that responded to changing needs, including HIV/AIDS, immigrants and refugees, middle school youth and intergenerational community building. 

The James R. Thorpe Foundation demonstrates its core values of respect and compassion for its grantee partners and the individuals they serve by:  

    • Supporting organizations that touch the individual lives of youth on their path to healthy adulthood and seniors as they maintain vitality and connections as they age 
    • Focusing support on the greater Minneapolis area and surrounding suburbs
    • Targeting support to individuals with low incomes
    • Remaining responsive to the rich cultural and ethnic diversity of the community 
    • Supporting smaller nonprofits with reliable, general operating support  
    • Engaging as active listeners and learners