History


Biography of
Howard F. Ahmanson,
Building Home
The Wilshire Colonnade, originally the Ahmanson Center, was designed by Edward Durell Stone. Howard F. Ahmanson was instrumental in the planning and design of the complex, and envisioned that the complex would be designed in the tradition of some of the great plazas of Europe. Robert H. Ahmanson took over the project in 1968, and it was completed two years later. The Ahmanson Foundation was a tenant there until 1986. Photo provided courtesy of redbobsled.

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Howard Ahmanson with his nephews, William (left) and Robert (right). After Howard’s death, William became CEO of H.F. Ahmanson & Co. and chairman of Home Savings and Loan. Robert became the President of The Ahmanson Foundation in 1974. Photo provided courtesy of Margo Leonetti O’Connell.

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The Ahmanson Foundation was incorporated in 1952 as a private foundation with initial funding from financier Howard F. Ahmanson and his wife, Dorothy Grannis Ahmanson. For many years, administration of The Foundation was entrusted to other members of the family and close associates, while Mr. Ahmanson himself, still actively engaged in business, worked to increase The Foundation’s assets.

While still in college, young Ahmanson founded H. F. Ahmanson & Co., an insurance company that soon became the foremost fire underwriter in California. With characteristic energy and skill, he expanded and built upon his initial financial success culminating in the creation of Home Savings of America — for many years the nation’s largest savings and loan association.

In 1961, Howard Ahmanson was elected to the Board of Trustees of The Foundation, becoming more personally involved in the distribution of funding. He was passionately committed to community building — not just building facilities, but building the fiber of the community itself, its culture, its education, its social fabric. He believed that the business community had a responsibility to contribute to the community at large and that money he had earned in Southern California should be spent in Southern California. Ahmanson was an early major contributor to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Music Center; the Center for Biological Research at the University of Southern California and the California Museum of Science and Industry.

In the years following Howard Ahmanson’s untimely death in 1968, The Foundation’s corpus was augmented by nephews Robert H. Ahmanson and William H. Ahmanson; by Dorothy Grannis Sullivan; and by the disposition of Howard Ahmanson’s estate. The family enlarged the Board of Trustees to include distinguished and visionary community members. In 1986, The Foundation settled into its present permanent headquarters.

While The Foundation’s grantmaking has evolved to meet the challenges of a Los Angeles far more complex than it was in 1952, the simple principle of building community for the common good remains a constant anchor.