August 01, 2018

Helmut Stern was a true Renaissance figure. Fellow community leaders who knew him describe him in inimitable ways: One of the best human beings I ever met. Incredibly generous across this community including many anonymous gifts. He had a profound influence on my work and on my life.

His biography reads like a true American success story: a German immigrant who barely escaped the Nazis who worked hard while taking college courses, and applied intelligence, ingenuity and determination to inventions and entrepreneurial ventures that brought business success. Helmut Stern also cultivated a life beyond corporations—pursuing passions in art and music, a love for friends and family, and community service for the region he loved since coming to Ann Arbor in 1942.

Because much of his giving was anonymous—Helmut agreed to have things named for him only to inspire others—we will not know the full extent of generosity during his lifetime. We do know that his generosity to the community will likely be unparalleled.

Everyone associated with the Community Foundation is incredibly moved by and grateful for this extraordinary testament to the community. The majority of Helmut’s $16.2 million gift is being established as a permanent endowed fund—the Helmut Stern Community Legacy Fund—that will be distributed in perpetuity through annual competitive grants and support for nonprofits. To honor his generous gift in a lasting way, AAACF will rename our legacy society as the Helmut Stern Society for Community Legacy. To incentivize others in the community to follow Helmut’s example of estate planning and philanthropy, AAACF is allocating $2 million of his gift to be distributed through two matches, both honoring the intentions of endowment, broad community impact, and philanthropy in perpetuity: