The History of the Lithuanian Foundation

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A conference held on March 19, 1961 to discuss the general organization for the foundation attended by the founders of the Lithuanian Foundation from Chicago and representatives of the Lithuanian American Community. Sitting, left to right: Jonas Liorentas, Vincas Ignaitis, Alicija Rūgytė, prel. Mykolas Krupavičius, Dr. Antanas Razma, Stasys Barzdukas, Jurgis Breivė, Jonas Švedas. Standing, left to right: Donatas Bielskus, Jonas Jasaitis, Viktoras Naudžius, Adolfas Pupelis, Benys Babrauskas, Vincas Šmulkštys, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Algirdas Nasvytis, dr. Aldona Rugienė, dr. Balys Poškus, Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis, Antanas Kareiva, Dr. Ferdinandas Kaunas, Vaclovas Dzenkauskas.

 

On December 8, 1960, Dr. Antanas Razma published an article in the Chicago Lithuanian newspaper “Draugas” titled: “A Million Dollar Foundation for Lithuanian Affairs and Its Organizing Principles”, in which he called on Lithuanians to establish a foundation whose main capital would be preserved, but its earned interest would be distributed to support Lithuanian publications, culture, education, arts, youth, and activities of the Lithuanian society abroad, and which would be overseen and regulated only by its donor members. The young doctor’s realistic and pragmatic concept, coupled with his enthusiasm, fostered serious discussions attracting popular support.

The first formal “Million Dollar Foundation” organizing conference took place in Chicago on January 8, 1961. On March 19, 1961, active members of Chicago’s Lithuanian society met with the Lithuanian American Community President Stasys Barzdukas and Vice-president Algirdas Nasvytis, who for many years had advocated an “Iron Foundation” instead. Ultimately, a majority of the March 19 conference participants supported the establishment of a single foundation.

Shortly after the eleventh “Million Dollar Foundation” conference in Chicago, two distinct foundation options were presented at the subsequent September 2-3 New York Lithuanian American Community National III Council Session I. Algirdas Nasvytis presented his long promoted “Iron Foundation”, which would be completely owned and regulated by the Lithuanian American Community. The “Million Dollar Foundation”, advocated by Dr. Antanas Razma, proposed an independent foundation supporting the broad spectrum of Lithuanian activities abroad, and which would be owned and regulated only by its donor members working alongside the Lithuanian American Community. After a number of lengthy deliberations, the Lithuanian American Community National Council members unanimously (with 32 votes) approved only Dr. A. Razma’s petition to establish a “Lithuanian Foundation” which would be owned and regulated by its donor members.

The First Steps of the Lithuanian Foundation

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The first Lithuanian Foundation Chairman of the Board and President, 1962. From the left: Dr. Antanas Razma and Teodoras Blinstrubas.

The required Lithuanian Foundation Articles of Organization were compiled and readied for filing with the State of Illinois within six months thereafter. Upon completion of formalities, the following temporary twelve member Lithuanian Foundation Board of Directors was elected on February 10, 1962: Dr. Antanas Razma, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Benediktas Babrauskas, Stasys Barzdukas, Teodoras Blinstrubas, Zigmas Dailidka, Antanas Kareiva, Dr. Ferdinandas Kaunas, Dr. Balys Poškus, Alicija Rūgytė, Vincas Šmulkštys and Jonas Švedas. This Board then proceeded to elect Dr.Antanas Razma as Chairman and Teodoras Blinstrubas as President. During the first meeting of this Board of Directors at the Jesuit Youth Center in Chicago on March 7, 1962, five Officers were elected: President Teodoras Blinstrubas, Vice-president Antanas Rūkštelė, Secretary Jonas Vaičekonis, Treasurer Dr. Vladas Šimaitis and Publications Chair Stasys Rauckinas. By then the initial 28 members had already donated $19,714.

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On March 14, 1962, the Lithuanian Foundation was formally incorporated in the State of Illinois. Pictured: LF legal counsel Algimantas Kėželis presenting the serving LF President Teodoras Blinstrubas with the LF incorporation documents. From the left: Benys Babrauskas, Dr. Vladas Šimaitis, Algimantas Kėželis, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Dr. Antanas Razma, Teodoras Blinstrubas, Stasys Rauckinas, Jonas Švedas, Alicija Rūgytė, and Jonas Vaičekonis.

 

On March 14, 1962, the Lithuanian Foundation was officially incorporated as the “Lithuanian Foundation, Inc.” in the State of Illinois as an independent donor member owned and regulated, non-for-profit financial corporation, whose main goal was to support Lithuanian cultural activity consistent with the “US Internal Revenue Service Code Section 501(c) (3) regulations. Soon thereafter, LF attained a “Tax Exempt Status”, meaning the foundation need not pay any government taxes, and that member donations would be tax exempt as well.

From the outset, all LF directors, Board members, committee members, their chairmen and agents have provided their services strictly on a voluntary basis and without monetary compensation.

 

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On December 10, 1971, a dinner was held at the Sharka restaurant in Chicago to mark the occasion of an update to the Foundation’s incorporation document. LF founders are pictured, from the left: Dr. Jonas Valaitis, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Dr. Antanas Razma and Viktoras Naudžius.

The first million of the Lithuanian Foundation and the growth of the capital

The first million dollars of capital was reached by the Lithuanian Foundation in twelve years. In 1974, the Lithuanian Foundation surpassed its million dollar goal and counted 3,964 members. The second million was reached in 1980, the third in 1984, ten million dollars in 2000 and fifteen million dollars was attained in 2003 consisting of donations from 7,226 members. In 2011, the LF had 8,900 donors (members, candidates, individuals, organizations, bequests, and special funds), whose combined donations exceeded 19.5 million dollars of capital.

By 2013, LF had accumulated more than $20 mil. in capital due to a number of generous bequests. In 2000, Alfonsas Šarauskas left a will donating more than $2.3 mil. In 2003, Juozas Ručys’ bequest was $1,054,065.

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Juozas Ručys (1911-2002)

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Alfonsas Šarauskas (1920-2000)

During the 2014 Annual Members’ meeting it was announced that the Joseph Vilcha trust donated $15.5 mil. – by far the largest contribution ever received by the Foundation. Further, that same year LF received a $2.8 mil. bequest from the estate of Genovaitė and Kazys Trečiokas. As a result, the Foundation’s capital suddenly exceeded $38 million dollars.

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Joseph Vilcha (Juozas Vilčiauskas) (1923-2014

Kazys ir Genovaite Treciokai
Genovaitė (1922-2011) and Kazys (1915-2004) Trečiokas

The foundation’s capital is comprised not only from bequests and donations, but additional capital is gained through profits generated by various functions and activities. Dedicated special donor funds of a certain minimum amount may be established within the foundation’s parameters, whereby the donors are allowed to specify how their earnings would be distributed as grants. In 2015 there were already 100 such special donor funds.

LF support of  Lithuanian culture

During the initial year of the foundation (1962), the Lithuanian Foundation distributed $1,200 in grants supporting various Lithuanian cultural activities. In 1982, the first million dollars was distributed. Since the Foundation’s inception through 2011, more than 15 million dollars have been distributed in grants, and in 1991, on the occasion of reestablishing its independence, a grant of $1,354,462 was given to the Lithuanian Republic towards the support of education and culture.

During the 53 years since its inception in 1962, the Foundation has distributed grants totaling $18,397,763 in support of Lithuanian activities worldwide.

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Dr. Antanas Razma presenting an LF grant check to the “Lituanus” journal representative Algis Lukas during the LF annual member conference July 2, 1966. Pictured sitting from the left: Bronius Krokys, Juozas Kazickas, Antanas Kareiva, Nijolė Poškienė ir Dr. Romualdas Nemickas. Standing from the left: Dr. Jonas Valaitis, Dr. Ferdinandas Kaunas, Vladas Šimaitis, Dr. Antanas Razma, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Father Viktoras Dabušis, Dr. Zenonas Ašoklis, check recipient Algis Lukas, Stasys Rauckinas, Algirdas Budreckas, Jeronimas Ignatonis, Antanas Dundulis, Anatolijus Kairys.

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Jonas Kavaliūas, one of the most active people in the furthering of Lithuanian education within the US at a Grants Committee meeting in 1971.

The principal focus of the Lithuanian Foundation has always been the continuing support of Lithuanian cultural activities, publications, the arts, education, festivals, social programs, youth conventions and camps, radio programs and student scholarships. With the support of the Foundation, Lithuanian schools are functioning, books and textbooks are printed, International Lithuanian Councils are formed, conferences are organized, traditional dance and song festivals drawing participants from around the globe are being sponsored. Since 1990, it has supported projects in Lithuania itself as well as around the world.

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The 2001 Grants Committee Scholarship Sub-Committee, from the left: Vaclovas Kleiza, Ramunė Lukienė, Kęstutis Ječius, Sigita Balzekienė, Tadas Kulbis, Juozas Polikaitis.

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Group of LF scholarship recipients during the LF banquet in 2015. From the left:
Kovas Polikaitis, Audrius Aleksiūnas, Rūta Misiūnaitė, Indrė Bielskutė, Mantė Baliutavičiūtė, Viltė Baliutavičiūtė ir Gabrielė Bieliauskaitė. (Photo by Sandra Ščedrina).

The hard working staff of the Lithuanian Foundation

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1982 Lithuanian Foundation Directors and officers. Sitting, from the left: Vytautas Kamantas, Milda Lenkauskienė, Stasys Baras, Vytautas Kutkus, Marija Remienė, Dr. Gediminas Balukas, Dr. Antanas Razma. Standing, from the left: Dr. Ferdinandas Kaunas, Pranas Mažrimas, Viktoras Naudžius, Povilas Kilius, Antanas Juodvalkis, Kazys Barzdukas, Dr. Vytautas Tauras, Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis, Petras Želvys, Apolinaras Bagdonas, Jonas Vaznelis, Dr. Algimantas B. Gleveckas.

 

The Lithuanian Foundation Board Chairmen:

Dr. Antanas Razma (1962–1965, 1979–1981, 2001–2004)
Dr. Gediminas Balukas (1966–1971, 1977–1978)
Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis (1972–1973)
Dr. Jonas Valaitis (1974–1976)
Stasys Baras (1982–1984, 1988–1990)
Povilas Kilius (1985–1987, 1991–1993)
Marija Remienė (1994–1995)
Vytautas Kamantas (1996–1997, 2005–2006)
Algirdas Ostis (1998–2000)
Arvydas Tamulis (2007 – until May 2009)
Rimantas Griškelis (from May 2009 – 2012)
Marius Kasniūnas (from May  2012 – 2015)
Saulius Čyvas (since May 2015)

The Lithuanian Foundation Presidents:

Teodoras Blinstrubas (1962–1965)
Dr. Antanas Razma (1966–1970, 1974–1978, 1984–1986)
Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis (1971)
Dr. Jonas Valaitis (1972–1973)
Dr. Gediminas Balukas (1979–1982)
Viktoras Naudžius (1983)
Marija Remienė (1987–1989)
Algirdas Ostis (1990–1992)
Stasys Baras (1993–1995, 2002)
Povilas Kilius (1996–1998, 2000–2002, 2003–2004)
Rūta Staniulienė (1999)
Arvydas Tamulis (2004–2005)
Sigita Balzekienė (2005–2006)
Ramūnas Astrauskas (2007– until May 2009)
Marius Kasniūnas (from May 2009 – 2012)
Arvydas Tamulis (from May 2012 – 2015)
Marius Kasniūnas (since May 2015)

 

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Previous Lithuanian Foundation Board chairmen in 2010. Sitting, from the left: Dr. Antanas Razma and Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis. Standing, from the left: Povilas Kilius, Arvydas Tamulis, Algirdas Ostis.

In January of 2005, the LF Board of Directors recognizing the Foundation’s founder and long serving Board chairman Dr. Antanas Razma’s achievements in successfully organizing, promoting, and leading the Lithuanian Foundation, unanimously elected Dr. A. Razma as the Lithuanian Foundation Board’s Honorary Chairman for life with the privilege of participating in any and all future Board and Committee meetings as he chooses.

 
LF campaigns, events…

Successful fund raising campaigns have always accounted for a substantial portion of the capital generated. These have been organized by the LF board, its volunteers, campaign committees and LF representatives in various the US Lithuanian community districts as well as abroad.

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A special gala was held on October 3, 2009 honoring of long time Foundation members and the former President of Lithuania, Valdas and Mrs. Alma Adamkus. Per the President’s request, donations were designated to the Valdas and Alma Adamkus Scholarship Fund.

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The Lithuanian Foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration was held on April 14, 2012 at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook, Illinois. Special recognition was awarded to the original founder Dr. Antanas Razma and also to Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis. From the left: LF Chairman Rimantas Griškelis, LF Director Dr. Antanas Razma Jr., Dr. Antans Razma, Sr., Dr. Kazys Ambrozaitis and LF Director Rita Kisielius.

The successful LF campaign and a good portion of the capital generation was organized by the LF board, it’s helpers, campaign committees and LF solicitors in various USA cities, USA Lithuanian community districts, and some nations abroad. This work is being continued by 13 LF solicitors in different districts. LF is delighted by the generous sponsor everlasting support to maintain the Lithuanian culture abroad: it’s the LF member donations, inheritances, their loved ones legacies, special funds, special event fund-raisers, and other donations that in 50 years not only reached its one million dollar goal but grew to 19.5 million. LF wants to thank all of their members and sponsors for their long term support! In the next 50 years, LF is further encouraging generations to carry on the LF flame, kindling the Lithuanian spirits of their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

 

LF representatives

LF representatives from across the country were instrumental in the growth of the Foundation as a result of their organizing events and fund raising campaigns. They began with various activities in 1980, which expanded and grew in the 1990’s. Some of these representatives had already been actively involved with the Foundation since 1965.

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2008 Lithuanian Foundation Board of Directors, Audit Committee and representatives. First row, from the left: Dalia Povilaitienė, Aldona Stasiukevičienė, Dalia Puškorienė, Dalia Jakienė, Alina Bičkienė, Arvydas Tamulis, Algirdas Saulis. Second row, from the left: Rimantas Griškelis, Vytenis Kirvelaitis, Narimantas Udrys, Almis Kuolas, Laurynas Misevičius, Vytas Narutis.

 

LF publications

LF distributes a variety of publications. Among the larger publications are the Foundation’s own commemorative histories. The first was published in 1983, the second in 1992, and the current one in 2012 celebrating the Foundation’s 50th anniversary. Additional publications include calendars, greeting cards, information pamphlets, children’s coloring books, etc. Since 2005 LF has bi-annually published an informational periodical “Liepsna” (The Flame) for distribution to its membership.

 

LF – patron of the arts

In 1980, artist Adomas Valeška proposed that an art preservation committee be created under the auspices of LF. The Board approved the creation of the Lithuanian Fine Arts Institute, operating as a sub-division of LF. Between 1999 and 2001, LF donated and delivered 665 works of art by Pranas Domšaitis to Lithuania, and on October 25, 2005, the Board unanimously resolved to donate his remaining art to the Lithuanian Art Museum.

In total, three collections were given by the Foundation to Lithuania. While the most voluminous and valuable are the works of Pranas Domšaitis, which are kept and displayed in the Pranas Domšaitis Gallery of Klaipėda as a permanent exhibit, in 2006 the Lithuanian Art Museum was also given the collection of drawings by Mstislav Dobužinski, followed in 2013 by 26 works of Ada Peldavičiūtė-Montvydienė.

 

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At the opening of Ada Peldavičiūtė’s-Montvydienė’s exhibit At Lituania’s Art Museum in Vilnius, July 3, 2013, from the left: LF Chairman Marius Kasniūnas, LF representative in Lithuania Leonas Narbutis and Lithuanian Art Museum Director Romualdas Budrys.

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A memorial plaque commemorating the Pranas Domšaitis art collection endowment.

 

Visit photo gallery (photos 1962-2012)

 

Updated: February 3, 2016

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