MY WASHINGTON — Spring 2009
   

 

Creating Scholarships, Making Education Possible for Others

Howard A.C. Kuehner (left), Olin Business School Class of 1940, and Hortense “Horty” Kuehner, Arts & Sciences Class of 1940. (Courtesy Photo)

Howard and Horty Kuehner have been married for 66 years, but their lives have been intertwined since childhood. They were delivered by the same doctor a few years apart; they grew up on the same street in Webster Groves; and both of their fathers were bankers in St. Louis.

Despite these similarities, they did not know each other as children. Horty’s father was appointed the New York representative for First National Bank of St. Louis, and her family moved to New Jersey for eight years.

Horty and Howard first met at a freshman mixer at Washington University in 1937. Howard was enrolled in the John M. Olin School of Business and a member of Beta Theta Pi. Horty was a student in Arts & Sciences and pledged Pi Beta Phi.

Horty recalls: “I wanted to go to Northwestern to study interior design, but my family encouraged me to attend Washington University. There were only 15 students in my high school class, and when I walked into History 101, it felt as if there were 500 people in the auditorium!”

In 1939, Howard began his career at Hamiltonian Federal Savings and Loan, which his father had founded. He was drafted by the U.S. Army in the fall of 1941. After he graduated from Officer Candidate School, he and Horty were married in 1942. He served as a medical administration officer in the Pacific Theater and was a captain when the war ended.

A heritage of service
While Howard was overseas, Horty worked at Washington University in the War Training Office. The University was one of many institutions across the nation under contract with the United States Office of Education to train workers for the defense industry. Before the program ended in 1945, Washington University had offered more than 50 courses and had trained some 15,000 people. “We were very busy, and the work was demanding,” Horty recalls.

As students and faculty went into the service, the campus began to resemble a military post. The Army contracted with Washington University to train hundreds of officers and specialists in engineering, languages, and pre-medical and pre-dental studies. To accommodate the increase in students, the University transformed Givens Hall into a barracks and converted basements and storage spaces into classrooms.

After the war, Howard returned to St. Louis and his father’s bank, but he soon left to go into business for himself. “After my experience in the Army, I couldn’t sit behind a desk all day,” he says. He attended Aetna’s training program in Hartford, Connecticut, and then founded the Kuehner Insurance Agency in St. Louis. Ten years later he joined The Daniel and Henry Company, one of the largest privately owned, independent insurance brokerage firms in Missouri. He retired as a vice president of Daniel and Henry in 1995.

Howard is a past president of the Insurance Association of St. Louis. From 1966 to 2006, he served on the board of directors of Cass Information Systems, Inc., which was founded in 1906 as Cass Avenue Bank. Horty’s father, Harry C. Hartkopf, had become president of Cass Bank & Trust Company in 1936. Hartkopf’s leadership led to the development of Cass Information Systems, which today is the largest provider of freight invoice payment, audit, and rating services in North America.

A tradition of philanthropy
In memory of Horty’s father, the Kuehners endowed a chair in finance at the Olin Business School at Washington University in 1995. Today the Harry C. Hartkopf Professorship in Econometrics and Statistics is held by Siddhartha Chib, who is widely recognized as a leader in the field of simulation-based statistical methods.

Howard and Horty’s children both graduated from the Olin Business School. Their late daughter, Kerry, graduated from John Burroughs School in 1968 and earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Webster University in 1972. A talented painter, sculptor, and graphic artist, Kerry founded the independent design firm Kuehner Associates in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. She developed corporate identity programs for the Fox Theatre, the Butterfly House, and the Forest Park Balloon Race, among others. She earned an Executive M.B.A. from Olin in 1987. She died at age 55 in November 2005, after a brief illness.

Kerry’s younger brother, Kim, graduated from John Burroughs School in 1971 and from Washington and Lee University in 1975. He earned an M.B.A. from Olin in 1977 and worked at Famous-Barr in St. Louis before leaving to establish his own clothing store. For the past 20 years, he has owned and operated Kim Kuehner Men’s Sportswear in Ladue, Missouri. In 2006 Kim endowed the Kerry S. Kuehner Fine Arts Building at Burroughs in his sister’s memory.

Howard and Horty established the Kerry S. Kuehner Endowed Scholarship Fund at the Washington University College of Art in memory of their daughter in 2005. Amelia Thomas, a freshman in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, is the current recipient. She is planning a double major in sculpture and philosophy-neuroscience-psychology (PNP), an interdisciplinary program in Arts & Sciences that examines the mind from multiple perspectives.

“There is wonderful camaraderie at the Sam Fox School, and the great professors have really helped me advance in drawing and woodworking,” Thomas says. “I am very grateful for this opportunity.”

Howard and Horty also have created two endowed scholarship funds at the Olin Business School as part of their estate plan. One is in Kerry’s memory, and the other is in honor of Kim. They also sponsor an annual scholarship in business, currently held by David Logan, a first-year M.B.A. student. Logan sang opera professionally before enrolling in the business school, and he plans a career in strategy consulting for nonprofit organizations. He says: “Olin offers an exceptionally challenging academic program and a great learning environment. This scholarship helps to make my education possible.”

“Howard and Horty Kuehner are important members of the University community, and we appreciate their extraordinary generosity and friendship,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “Their family tradition of philanthropy will continue to provide wonderful opportunities for generations of outstanding young people.”

Over the course of seven decades, the Kuehners have witnessed the University’s transformation from a “street car school” to one of the finest universities in the world. “We are very proud of Washington University and what it has become,” Horty says. Howard adds: “We are proud to be a part of it.”

—Susan Wooleyhan Caine