The Joseph H. and Florence A. Roblee Foundation was presented with the 2019 Betty Bofinger and George Warren Brown Award on April 3, 2019 at the Brown School Awards of Distinction ceremony.
The Betty Bofinger and George Warren Brown Award is presented to foundations and corporations who by financial generosity and collaborative partnership support the students, faculty and staff of the Brown School. The award is named to honor the first key external partners of the Brown School, Betty Bofinger and George Warren Brown. The Browns made two philanthropic contributions that provided the Brown School with critical support at significant points in the Brown School’s history. Betty and George were committed to bettering the lives of people in St. Louis through volunteerism and philanthropy and exemplify the values of the Brown School today.
Louise Roblee McCarthy, who was a cousin of George Warren Brown, started the Roblee Foundation in 1971 to continue her life’s philanthropic work, and she named the organization in honor of her parents. She believed in democracy and in the value of exchanging ideas, and listening to — and respecting — one another. She was an active supporter of educational endeavors, from her service with The League of Women Voters, to her support of schools ranging from Vassar College, (her alma matter, class of 1912), to the Community School in St. Louis, to the work of the Worldwide YWCA.
The foundation continues to honoring McCarthy’s legacy by placing particular emphasis on programs that work to break down cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, and sexual barriers. Currently, the Foundation awards approximately $800,000 annually, primarily in the St. Louis area. With an eye towards increasing impact, the Foundation adopts a special initiative area every five to 10 years, including the current initiative area of human trafficking and the prior area of LGBTQ youth.
“My mother was a person who was always looking for new and creative ways of solving problems,” said Carol McCarthy Duhme, the founder’s daughter, who is one of the 11 board members of the foundation and a trustee.
In addition to helping solve problems, McCarthy wanted the foundation to help family members appreciate responsible philanthropy. “She had two purposes: to instill the joy of giving money away and to give money away responsibly,” Duhme explained. “You really have to have a plan.” Recognizing the importance of scholarly research and training highly skilled social work professionals, the foundation has a longstanding relationship with the Brown School. Its current support of Washington University includes a dual-degree program with Eden Theological Seminary, research to develop strategies to address human trafficking in Missouri, work to develop a framework for child development accounts in the state, and scholarships for Master of Social Work students.