The Nippert family’s legacy of giving lives on at the Indian Hill foundation
By: Anthony Castrovince
Louis and Louise Nippert specialized in boast-free benevolence. Their legacy of giving to various arts, education, sports, ecology and agriculture interests in the Cincinnati area totaled hundreds of millions of dollars in their lifetimes but, quite often, the gifts came without name recognition. They believed in the appeal of anonymity, of giving cash without receiving credit. When you do good, they figured, people will figure it out. And if it’s credit you desire, advertising is cheaper than philanthropy.
This helps explain how one of the Nipperts’ greatest legacies -- the Greenacres Foundation -- exists in relative anonymity on a 600-acre site in Indian Hill.
“We have people who live three minutes or five minutes away that will walk through for the first time and say, ‘I had no idea,’” says Greenacres President Carter F. Randolph.
For the last 30 years, the working farm, nature refuge, equine center and arts center has offered educational programs in agriculture, the environment, horsemanship and the arts. It has hosted culinary and gardening programs, art shows, concerts and summer camps. It has enriched the lives of the tens of thousands of students who pass through in a given year.
And yet, the private nonprofit, established in 1988, is essentially unknown to so many.
Miles of smiles
To understand what Greenacres does, you must first understand the premise that drove Louis Nippert, an heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune who died at the age of 89 in 1992, and his wife, Louise, who passed away at 100 in 2012, to such generous lengths. They believed the true purpose of philanthropy was the smile on faces of beneficiaries.
You see those smiles on the schoolchildren who come to Greenacres -- the property the Nipperts purchased in 1949 -- for customized lessons that incorporate state curriculum standards and provide hands-on experiences. The Environment Education programs take students on tours of the mature forests, wooded streams and farm ponds on the property. The Arts Education team engages children and adults alike in music, visual arts, drama and dance. The Equine Center offers a safe place for children ages 8 and older to learn to ride without the financial pressures of horse ownership. And the Garden Education department instructs elementary to college-aged students on creating and nurturing environmentally beneficial growth spaces.
The field trips are offered free of charge, and bus transportation costs are reimbursed for qualifying schools.
Greenacres staff believe that a hands-on, learn-by-doing approach can help students improve test scores and aptitude.
“We have an education staff of about 30 people right now,” Randolph says. “Everything is custom tailored to the classroom teacher’s needs.”
To continue providing school programming, Greenacres must actively manage its environmental assets.
“That involves everything from removing invasive species to doing water quality testing to make sure we can take the kids into the creeks,” Randolph says.
Greenacres is not intended just to teach but also to learn. This fall, for instance, the foundation will finish a project with the University of Michigan that Randolph says will be the largest nutrition-based study of grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef ever undertaken.
“We’ll be able to definitively say, ‘These are the nutritional components for you in grass-finished beef,’” Randolph says. “The producers will get an idea of what the better techniques are.”
At Greenacres, they’re researching, teaching and even supplying. Its farm store is open Monday through Friday and the second Saturday of each month, offering the appeal of locally sourced produce, as well as pork, lamb and beef at harvest time.
All this, in addition to the summer camps,Artists Guild events such as Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra concerts, craft beer tastings and art shows that make Greenacres such a dynamic and expansive foundation.
This is what the Nipperts intended, not name recognition or acclaim.
“Very few people will ever appreciate just how generous the Nipperts were in the community, from giving money away in their lifetime to then establishing these organizations and the impact these organizations have,” Randolph says. “When you think about 32,000 students coming through last year, it starts to have a big impact.”
Managing Greenacres' green
Proper money management allowed Louis and Louise Nippert to give so generously to causes and institutions in Greater Cincinnati during their lifetimes. And proper money management, with the help of Huntington, has allowed their Greenacres Foundation to flourish and do right by the community long after their deaths.
“Our relationship with Huntington goes back more than 10 years,” says Carter F. Randolph. “We started out doing a lot of work with Huntington’s branch in Montgomery, right around the corner from us. That has been a very good relationship, and that branch has served us very well. More recently, we’ve worked with people out of the downtown office, and they’ve provided a great depository service for us.”
Greenacres keeps about a year’s operating cash with Huntington, and Randolph has been pleased with both the interest rate and the service provided.
“There have been a couple times where we’ve accumulated large amounts of cash, such as a $400 million endowment, and money market funds have been next to nothing,” Randolph says. “Huntington has stepped up and said, ‘For those sized deposits, we’ll give you a significantly better interest rate.’ So from a cash management point of view, they’ve helped us and done nice work with us.”
For more information, visit www.green-acres.org.