The George Family Foundation (GFF) was created in 1994 by Penny and Bill George in order to share their net worth through philanthropy that will have a positive impact on issues of importance to them. Since its inception, the Foundation has funded organizations led by committed, innovative leaders who are focused on integrative health, authentic leadership, spirituality, and the community. The George Family Foundation focuses on single- and multi-year programmatic grants that can accelerate these issues, but does not make capital or endowment gifts.
Through their foundation, the Georges find great pleasure in sharing the blessings they have received in ways that make a lasting mark. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we earn, we make a life by what we give.”
Penny and Bill's Background
Penny's career was in consulting psychology, which she practiced for 22 years, completing her doctor of psychology degree at the University of St. Thomas in 1995. In 1996 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which led to a transformation in her life. In 1997 she became president of the George Family Foundation and since that time she has led the Foundation as its president. With her growing passion to transform medicine with a holistic approach focusing on the integration of mind, body and spirit, Penny co-founded the Bravewell Collaborative for Integrative Medicine in 2002, a national coalition of philanthropists committed to this emerging field. She also helped start a similar program at Abbott Northwestern Hospital called the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. It has grown into the largest hospital-based program in the United States and has become a full service line of its parent organization, Allina Health Care.
Bill's career has focused on leading large companies that included Litton Industries, Honeywell, and Medtronic, where he retired in 2002 after serving for a decade as chairman and chief executive officer. In 2002 he became professor of leadership and governance at Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) and International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne and in 2003 as executive-in-residence at Yale University's School of Management. Since 2004 he has been professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, teaching leadership and governance and creating two new courses, Leading Global Businesses and Authentic Leadership Development. Bill is the author of five books, four of which were national best sellers: True North, Authentic Leadership, Finding Your True North, and 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.
Both Penny and Bill were raised in strong spiritual traditions where sharing one's gifts and giving back were considered an integral part of life. Penny's ancestors were ministers and doctors. Her mother was an active community volunteer; her father, a general surgeon who often made house calls on horseback to care for the indigent. In his earliest memories Bill recalls wanting to be a values-centered leader who could make a difference in the world. Their family has always been central to their lives – even in their dual careers, both Penny and Bill always made time for their sons’ activities, and Bill coached and managed their sons' soccer teams for thirteen years.
Mission and Values of George Family Foundation
Our Mission is to foster wholeness in mind, body, spirit and community by developing authentic leaders and supporting transformative programs serving the common good.
Our Values are transformative, innovative, respectful, collaborative, integrative, generative, upstream and preventive.
Our Guiding Philosophy is to invest in people, programs and initiatives that further the mission of the George Family Foundation and help build the communities in which we live.
We believe in sharing the blessings we have received and in celebrating the spiritual reciprocity that exists between donors and receivers working collaboratively to make the world a better place.
Creating a Legacy
This focus on sharing their net worth in order to make a difference in their fields of interest led to creating the Foundation. Their vision is to foster wholeness in mind, body and spirit as well as to give back to the community that has given them so much joy. The Foundation strives to advance integrative medicine and health as well as to develop and support authentic leaders by partnering with institutions and organizations that have developed robust, creative programs to advance these fields. It also seeks opportunities to leverage its funding through collaboration with like-minded philanthropists. It is also interested in supporting spirituality and organizations committed to advance the spirit-filled life. Finally, the foundation funds myriad programs in the communities in which they live and visit.
As the Foundation matures and grows, its areas of strategic focus may change, but the mission and values will endure.