John E. & Eleanor B. Kirkpatrick

John E. & Eleanor B. Kirkpatrick

Born in Oklahoma City on February 13, 1908, to Dr. Elmer and Claudia Spencer Kirkpatrick, John Elson Kirkpatrick was a U.S. Navy Rear Admiral, oilman and philanthropist. Raised in the family home on Oklahoma City's Northwest 10th Street, John Kirkpatrick attended McKinley Elementary School and was a 1925 graduate of Oklahoma High School (the first high school in Oklahoma City that later became Central High School).

Mary 'Eleanor' Blake was born in Mangum in 1909. Her family moved to Oklahoma City in 1910, where she was raised in the Heritage Hills area. She was educated in prep schools in Washington, D.C., and in France and graduated from Smith College.

Kirkpatrick graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1931 and married Eleanor on June 20, 1932. Their daughter, Joan, was born in 1933, while the couple was living in California and John was serving aboard the USS California. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy until 1935, remaining in the U.S. Navy Reserve when he and two partners formed Allied Steel Products Company in Tulsa. In 1941, John was called back into the Navy, earning two decorations during World War II and retiring as a Rear Admiral in 1956.

John founded the Kirkpatrick Oil Company in 1950, and he and Eleanor became increasingly active in civic endeavors throughout Oklahoma City. In 1955, the couple established the Kirkpatrick Foundation to serve as a vehicle for their personal philanthropy. Through the Kirkpatrick Foundation, the couple made a number of instrumental gifts that would shape the landscape of the community's arts and cultural scene.

Looking to create an opportunity to encourage others in the community to give back, Mr. Kirkpatrick enlisted attorney Don Ellison to research the benefits of a community foundation. Modeled after the Cleveland Foundation, one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the country, the Oklahoma City Community Foundation was incorporated January 13, 1969.

Mr. Kirkpatrick gave the new community foundation more than just a vision. During those first few years, he contributed generously, encouraged his friends and colleagues to establish funds and offered to match gifts to endowment funds for charities. He nurtured the organization's administrative needs, led its board for the first 10 years and provided the long-term oversight that allowed the concept of the "community's endowment" to be established and to thrive. When the Community Foundation moved from Mr. Kirkpatrick's offices in 1987 to its own building, it had the financial stability and administrative structure to become a viable and important contributor to the growth and quality of life in Oklahoma City.

After Mr. Kirkpatrick turned over the governance and administration of the Community Foundation to others, he began to utilize it for his own philanthropy. In 1989, he and Eleanor established the Kirkpatrick Family Fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to support charitable, civic and cultural causes that impact citizens in central Oklahoma and beyond. Expecting this charitable commitment to continue long beyond his own life, Mr. Kirkpatrick knew that the Community Foundation would ensure that his charitable goals would be fulfilled. Today, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund is the largest affiliated fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and continues to support charitable causes important to the Kirkpatrick family under the leadership of their grandson, Christian K. Keesee.

Mr. Kirkpatrick fervently planned for the future, structuring his gifts in a way that would provide a benefit for years to come. He valued hard work, thrift and patriotism and was well-respected by his peers in business and philanthropy. While John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick left a substantial financial legacy for charity, their greatest contribution was a personal legacy of generosity and caring.

Read more:
USS Oklahoma Anchor
2008 - Celebrating John E. Kirkpatrick's Life
2008 - John E. Kirkpatrick: Patriot. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist.
2012 - Providing Training Opportunities for Law Enforcement
2014 - Leading by Example
2015 - Visionaries for Endowment

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