Cincinnati Post, Editorial Page - Charles Dater's Legacy

Published Date: October 11, 2001

Adam Dater emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1830 and, at age 48, settled in Cincinnati.

His son, Gilbert, started a wholesale grocery business. Gilbert invested heavily, and well, in real estate.

Gilbert Dater's son, Charles Henry Dater, improved the family's fortune even more through investments ranging from stockyards to banking.

When he died, the responsibility for managing the family's business interests fell to his wife and his 17-year-old son, Charles Hixson Dater.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati and securing an MBA from Harvard, Charles Hixson Dater served with the Army during World War II. Then he returned to Cincinnati and, after his mother's death, managed the family's financial interests.

Despite his wealth, he lived modestly, in a three-bedroom ranch house in Westwood. One of his acquaintances recalls that he drove his cars until their wheels fell off - and when he got up in years and didn't feel comfortable driving any more, he got around by bus.

Dater established a philanthropic foundation in 1985, eight years before his death at age 81. Today, with assets of nearly $50 million, it is one of the larger private foundations in Cincinnati.

It is also one of the more obscure.

While Charles Dater was alive, that obscurity was by design, and even after his death the foundation tended to avoid publicity.

Now, however, the foundation has reached a milestone, one that deserves note. It celebrated its 15th anniversary by making its 1,000th grant, a $30,000 donation to the Cincinnati Zoo for its ''Wings of Wonder'' program that brings birds into classrooms across the region. It's part of a three-year, $90,000 commitment, and beyond that part of a longstanding history of support for the zoo by the Dater Foundation.

The foundation also announced a $500,000 pledge - its largest ever - to the Taft Museum of Art for its renovation and expansion.

It's a fine legacy for a modest guy who counted his pennies and believed in the Golden Rule. And it's a fine inspiration even for those of us with fewer pennies to count.

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