A Vision for the Future
“The first time I saw generosity in action, I didn’t know that I’d seen it,” says John O’Connor, Dubuque resident, business owner and co-founder of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque.
“It was in 1959, when the Wahlert Foundation made a gift to establish Wahlert High School. They created this foundation to put money aside today to take care of the needs of the future. That’s stuck with me, and it’s one of the things that motivated me to get involved in the formation of a community foundation for Dubuque.”
Today, O’Connor’s passion for community and memories of that example of generosity drive him to give back, helping Greater Dubuque grow stronger for future generations.
“People here take care of each other. Everyone works together without a sense of authorship to accomplish things,” he explains. “It’s great to be in a community where there’s a vision for the future, and there’s a work ethic to get it done.”
O’Connor remembers his father, who was involved with Dubuque’s colleges, impressing upon him the importance of endowments for education. So when O’Connor joined the effort to start a community foundation in the early 2000s, he applied that same theory to an entire region.
He describes an endowment like a community’s savings account. As the principal grows, the earnings increase and can be used to meet future needs.
That’s why he chose to make his own gift to the Greater Dubuque Forever Fund, an endowment to address a range of community challenges and opportunities as they emerge. “The needs of our charitable organizations in Dubuque accelerate every year – so those of us who want to give to benefit a specific area can do so. But we should also think about leaving money to the Forever Fund for needs that are yet to come.”
As a former board member, O’Connor is confident current and future Community Foundation leaders will steward the Forever Fund expertly so it has a lasting impact on the people of the community he loves.
“We have a very strong board. We have a committee that decides who receives grants each year. We have a group of strong investment representatives who look after our investments. When I pass away, there’s no better place for the money I want to leave for this community than in their hands — so it does last forever.”