History of the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation

It was 3:15 in the afternoon on August 6, 1957. Assembled in the board of directors’ room at the Binghamton Savings Bank were Conrad Klee and a small group of other prominent Binghamton residents. They were busy signing papers creating the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation, and they formed the original Klee board of directors. In accordance with the new foundation’s bylaws, all board members were affiliated with major banking institutions either as directors or bank presidents.

During that session, the Klees presented a check for $5,000 to be the initial contribution to the foundation, stating: “It is our present intention, by our Wills, ultimately to provide you with a substantial fund … and the nominal contribution we make at this time is made as a token of our intentions and to provide a modicum of cash to be at your disposal until it is supplemented by further contributions.”

Klee nominated as chair his friend Cornelius Van Patten, who would serve in that capacity for the next 30 years. He was succeeded by longtime board member Clayton Axtell, who served 26 years, yielding the position to his son Clayton III in 2003. Upon Clayton III's untimely death in 2005, the board hired Judith Peckham as executive director, established a foundation office, a website, and implemented terms of office for board members/officers. Linda Biemer became its first chair under the restructured organization.

The foundation made its first grant, of $500, to the Broome County United Fund in December 1957, and a similar amount the following year. In 1959, Conrad Klee donated an additional $1,000 to the foundation, and stated that it was his and Virginia’s intent to make contributions to the foundation each year thereafter. He also requested that primary consideration be given to donating toward scholarships at Harpur College.

To date, the foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $27,234,000.

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50 Years of Service