Fund History

Walter A. Haas, Jr. and his wife Evelyn Danzig Haas, guided by love for their community and the people who live there, created their family foundation in 1953 based on values of fairness, equality and opportunity.

The roots of family philanthropy run deep in the Haas, Jr. family. Walter A. Haas, Jr.’s great-great-uncle Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria, arrived in San Francisco in 1853 and started a dry-goods house that grew into a prosperous business and eventually became Levi Strauss & Co. A donor to organizations serving children and the poor, as well as to UC Berkeley, he was credited in a 1902 obituary for his “numberless unostentatious acts of charity in which neither race nor creed were recognized.”

Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. had the vision to create a family foundation that could adjust to changing needs and opportunities. Their three children now carry on their legacy: Walter J. Haas is Chair of the Board of Trustees, Robert D. Haas is Treasurer and Betsy Haas Eisenhardt serves as Secretary. Under their leadership, the Fund takes on complex and pressing problems, such as promoting equal rights and opportunities for immigrants, gays and lesbians, and reducing racial and economic disparities in academic achievement to move people out of poverty and into family-supporting jobs.

Inspired by the values and vision of Walter A. Haas, Jr. and Evelyn D. Haas, the Fund strives to contribute in meaningful and effective ways at the local, state and national levels. Since its inception, the Haas, Jr. Fund has awarded more than $458 million in grants ranging from critical investments in community-based groups to significant gifts to major cultural institutions. Although the Fund’s areas of concentration have evolved—and will continue to evolve—over time, our core values remain constant.

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We remain guided by the values that the founders of the Fund established for us. Whatever we do, it must make a difference. Whatever we do, we must face up to underlying problems, understand them, and focus our energies on achievable solutions. Whatever we do, we must work in ways that recognize and encourage the efforts of talented people with intelligence, imagination, integrity, perseverance, and generous hearts.
- Ira Hirschfield
  President