Since 1957, the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation has funded a broad range of organizations across many categories – arts and humanities, communications, education, environment, human services and libraries. Read on for a timeline of the foundation’s history, as well as a biography of Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen where you can learn how the interests of each Founder has shaped the Foundation’s giving today.

Foundation Timeline

  • The first meeting of the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation was held on December 10, 1957 at 11:00 am at 255 Eagle Street in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
  • In 1959, an H. B. Fuller Company college scholarship program, then administered by the Foundation, was established for the son or daughter of an H. B. Fuller Company or subsidiary company employee.
  • For decades, grants were awarded for programs in the arts and humanities, communications, education, the environment, human services and libraries.
  • In 2007, the Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary with selected grant recipients, board members and friends, and the first recipient of an H.B. Fuller Company college scholarship.
  • Through a strategic planning process In 2009, the Foundation developed its Legacy, Social Change and Discretionary grantmaking programs.
  • The Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation was awarded the 2013 Responsive Philanthropy Award by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and MAP for Nonprofits.

Elmer L. Andersen

As a respected industrialist, politician, environmentalist, publisher, humanitarian, and lover of the arts, Elmer L. Andersen deftly wove multiple careers, interests, and causes into a tapestry of good works spanning nearly all of his life. From humble beginnings he rose, as most would agree, to contribute more than any other individual to Minnesota’s excellent quality of life.

As a Minnesota State Senator and Governor, he championed progressive legislation in education, social services, fair employment, fair housing, metropolitan planning, and the environment. Notably, he steered passage of the Taconite Amendment, reviving the economy of the Mesabi Iron Range. In 1957, he led passage of the Fair Employment Practices Act with Minnesota as the fifth state to do so. He placed Minnesota at the forefront for children with disabilities by making Minnesota the first state to mandate special education for exceptional students in public schools. The State of Minnesota’s Human Services Building is named in his honor.

As a business executive, he built H. B. Fuller Company from a small, regional company with less than $200,000 in annual sales into an international Fortune 500 company renowned for its good citizenship and progressive employee programs. He was Chairman and CEO of ECM Publishers, Inc. and, into his nineties, wrote weekly editorials for its several newspapers in Central Minnesota.

As a community leader, he served as director and officer of numerous local and national organizations. Notably, he was Chairman of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, President of the Minnesota Historical Society, President and Chairman of the Bush Foundation, and Co-Founder of the Elmer L. & Eleanor J. Andersen Foundation, which has supported worthy causes for over fifty years.

More than six hundred friends helped Elmer celebrate his ninetieth birthday on June 26, 1999. After Tom Swain's tribute to Eleanor, she stood to acknowledge the crowd's applause and her husband's kiss.

More than six hundred friends helped Elmer celebrate his ninetieth birthday on June 26, 1999. After Tom Swain’s tribute to Eleanor, she stood to acknowledge the crowd’s applause and her husband’s kiss.

Because of the breadth of his knowledge, abilities, and interests, Elmer L. Andersen was able to build collaborations among business, government, and the non-profit sectors resulting in a legacy of accomplishments benefiting the environment in perpetuity. He spearheaded the establishment of Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota’s sole national park, and several state parks. He was responsible for the establishment of the Andersen Horticultural Library at the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, and the Minnesota Environmental Trust Fund, which provides for the constitutional dedication of Minnesota Lottery proceeds to the environment. He was involved in conservation activities on the North Shore of Lake Superior resulting in benefits for business, government, and environmental interests.

In the 1990’s, he donated his personal collection of over 12,500 rare books to the University of Minnesota. The collection, along with many others, is housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library and is used by students and scholars from around the world. Elmer L. Andersen credited much of his success to the steadfast love and devotion of his wife of over 70 years, Eleanor J. Andersen. She was a dedicated partner in all of his endeavors.

Eleanor J. Andersen

Eleanor J. Andersen was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the first child of Swedish immigrant parents. She maintained a deep, life-long closeness with her family and many friends.

Mrs. Andersen grew up speaking Swedish before she spoke English, and she maintained a correspondence in Swedish with her parents’ families in Sweden, visiting them in Sweden several times – once, traversing the Atlantic on the Lusitania. A speed-skater as a girl, she also enjoyed music, which culminated in attending music school and teaching piano privately. She began to attend concerts at Northrup Auditorium in 1929, and her enjoyment of music and support of concerts endured throughout her life, as did her love of reading.

She attended Minnesota College and completed a University of Minnesota undergraduate history degree in 1939 with a minor in music. After her marriage on September 1, 1932, she was a constant, wise intellectual partner with her husband, and clearly, she was the great love of his life. During each of her husband’s phases in business, government, and organizational leadership, she assisted him to the degree that he often said that he accomplished what he did in his life because she was his wife.

In this regard, she served as First Lady of the State of Minnesota from 1961-1963. Throughout her life, she accepted with quiet strength the rigors of her role as the wife of a man very involved in his business career and in community activities; yet, to the end of her life, she also retained her individual identity and the freedom to politely speak her mind. Together they shared particular interests in education, libraries, local plants and animals, and the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.

They kept decades-old friendships and club memberships from their years in St. Anthony Park, and they also maintained close ties with Mr. Andersen’s family based out-of-state. On her own, Mrs. Andersen was an active board member of the Children’s Home Society, a board member and historian for the Schubert Club, and a board member of ECM Publishers. Additionally, she was a member of the Weavers Guild from its earliest years and became an accomplished weaver. She also valued her membership in the educational service sorority, PEO.

Throughout her life, those who knew her in each of her activities always remarked on her dignified manner, her unfailing courtesy, her Swedish blue eyes, and her beautiful graceful appearance.