History of Community Foundation Silicon Valley

For more than 50 years, Community Foundation Silicon Valley helped to instill a tradition of generosity and a shared commitment to improving quality of life for people of Santa Clara County. Created in 1954 with $55,000 left in a war chest from World War II, the foundation managed more than 650 individual, family and corporate funds, as well as nonprofit endowments.

Like Silicon Valley itself, innovation and entrepreneurship remained trademarks of Community Foundation Silicon Valley’s success. The foundation partnered with 25 corporations to create the largest corporate advised fund program of any community foundation in the country. Much of the foundation’s growth took place concurrent with the growth of the surrounding region during the 20th century. In 1990, assets totaled $9 million and in 2006, they topped $919 million.

In 1954, led by Phillip Hammer Sr., a group of local community leaders planted an idea to create a long-term endowment fund for the region’s local benefit. The group included two mayors of San José, Ernest Renzel and Albert J. Ruffo, as well as Joseph George, Jr. and Harvey C. Miller. They seeded their effort with $55,000 in funds left in the San José war chest created to assist efforts during World War II.

Community Foundation Silicon Valley was launched on June 17, 1954 as the Community Trust of Santa Clara County. At the time, the San José Evening News wrote, "It is most pleasing that a worthwhile project of wartime can be converted into a vital, living trust for the public good that can function far into the future." Records indicate that the Crippled Children's Society (now Via Rehabilitation Services) received the foundation's first grant of $295.17 for the purchase of movie screen and projector for its new Camp Costanoan. The grant came from a bequest that Mrs. Florence Parks had left to the community foundation to support children with special needs.

The idea for a charitable community resource took hold. Community Foundation Silicon Valley established deep ties to many local agencies dedicated to philanthropy, revitalization, art, culture and education. During its 52 years, the Community Foundation Silicon Valley continued to grow and connect people in need with those who care, locally and globally.

The Community Foundation’s Founders

“The men who created the Community Trust were not super-wealthy, they were the merchant class,” said Philip Hammer, son of one of the founders. “They saw value in having a healthy community, in having an educated community, in having a community that worked well together. At that time, that was pretty visionary.”

The first board included:

  • Stanley C. Benz – Dean of San José State University
  • Charles J. Dirksen – Dean of the Business School at Santa Clara University
  • Joseph George, Jr. – Owner of Joseph George Distributors
  • Philip Hammer – Retired, Owner of Hammer’s clothing store
  • Leon Jacobs – Owner of a clothing store
  • Dr. Merlin T.R. Maynard – Physician
  • Harvey C. Miller – Attorney, served on the State Bar Board of Governors
  • Aaron Richards – Owner of filling stations
  • Albert J. Ruffo – Attorney, Former San José Mayor, Co-founder of the 49ers