Argosy Foundation Ready to Make a Difference

John Abele, founder of medical equipment supplier Boston Scientific Corp., and his family plan to more than double the endowment of their Argosy Foundation over the next few years and move its headquarters from Boston to Milwaukee under the direction of Abele's son Chris, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The family-controlled foundation, which has been based in Boston for a decade, currently has assets of about $450 million. But with family members planning to contribute significant amounts of Boston Scientific stock to the foundation over the next few years, its assets could eventually reach $2 billion, making it one of the larger foundations in the country and the largest, by a considerable degree, in Wisconsin, surpassing the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which has held that title since 1985.

"[It's] an extraordinary opportunity — it just blows me away," Chris Abele told the Journal Sentinel. "We all take it really seriously."

Because each of the five members of the Abele family — John and his wife, who continue to live in the Boston area; a daughter, Jeneye, who lives in Colorado; a son, Alex, who lives in Vermont; and Chris — controls a portion of the foundation's grantmaking budget, the majority of its giving is likely to be focused outside of the Milwaukee area. But with Milwaukee-based Chris Abele taking a lead role in Argosy's day-to-day operations, the city, and in particular its arts groups, are sure to benefit.

Under Abele's leadership, the style of the foundation is also expected to differ markedly from that of the more traditional Bradley Foundation, a leading funder of conservative think tanks and policy research whose executives believe it best not to get involved in the operations of the organizations and causes they fund. Abele, in contrast, welcomes the opportunity to become involved in the policy and decision making processes of the organizations he supports — an approach he calls "value-added giving." The goal, he says, is to help nonprofit organizations improve their management abilities.

It's an ambitious goal, but the 36-year-old Abele is someone who believes in aiming high. "To try anything less," he says, "is irresponsible."

Alan J. Barsuk. "Funding's New Heavy-Hitter." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 02/09/2003.