An inventory of William J. Kerby Foundation Records at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
The William J. Kerby Foundation was a national organization founded in 1941, dedicated to promoting the fundamental principle of the dignity of man, focusing attention on the spiritual basis of democracy, encouraging Americans to put this spiritual concept of democracy to practical use in the fields of education, social service, public administration, labor and industrial relations, and developing a strong, alert, and active lay leadership.
Following Monsignor William Joseph Kerby's death in 1936, members of the faculty of the Catholic University of America and the Laymen's Retreat Association of the diocese of Syracuse held panels and discussions to lay the foundations for an organization that would continue to spread Dr. his influence. As both a memorial to the honor of Kerby, and as a movement on a national scale to expand the appreciation the basic teachings of Christianity and the Church and democratic principles, the group was formed with wide influence between several prominent religious and social organizations.
Due to Dr. Kerby's widespread influence on prestigious organizations ranging from the St. Vincent de Paul Society to the National Conference of Catholic Charities, the National Catholic School of Social Work, the National Conference of Catholic Women, and beyond, the initial scope for the organization focused on bringing all interested groups together in a non-hierarchical manner to expand social projects particular to Kerby's teachings.
The original acting positions of the Foundation included Bishop LeBlond of St. Joseph's as chairman, Father May of Catholic University as secretary, Monsignor McEvoy of Catholic Charities, Jane Hoey of Trinity College, Dr. Duggan of Loras College, Mr. Heffron of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Miss Regan of the National Catholic School of Social Service, Mr. John Smith of the Laymen's Retreat Association of Syracuse, Miss Merrick of the Christ Child Society, and Dr. William Russell of Catholic University.
By the time the Foundation was incorporated on July 22, 1941, the group had decided to focus on a smaller participation base of strongly committed individuals. The Articles of Incorporation were subscribed by Miss Jane Hoey, Rev. William Russell, and Mr. William Montavan, with a group of twenty five trustees.
The Constitution and By-Laws of the Foundation were adopted on April 26, 1942, and the first officers were officially elected the same day: Dr. Charles Neill was elected Honorary President; Miss Jane Hoey, President; Rev. Joseph May, Vice President; Mr. James Keelty, Treasurer; Rev. William Russell, Secretary. Several of these original officers played pivotal roles throughout the history of the organization; Hoey, May, and Russell contributed greatly for the rest of their lives. Fenton Moran became the Executive Secretary in 1945, and was a pillar of the group until his untimely death in 1958; he was succeeded by his nephew, Hugh Latham. Keelty was replaced by John A. Reilly in 1945. Following Russell's death, Rev. John O'Sullivan became the new secretary in 1953, followed by Rev. Gerard Sloyan in 1957, and Robert McAuliffe in 1967. After Jane Hoey's debilitating stroke in 1967, Dr. Kerby Neill became the new President, and Hoey became the President Emeritus. The officers of the Foundation received no salaries for their participation, and the Foundation itself was not financially dependent on any other institution.
In 1943, the Foundation published its first projects: an interpretive booklet based on Kerby's life, 'Democracy Through Christ,' and a compilation volume of fourteen essays focusing on the dignity of man entitled 'Democracy: Should It Survive?' In its first year as an organization, the Foundation distributed 6,000 copies of a pamphlet entitled 'William J. Kerby,' and provided its first grant to the National School of Social Work.
Throughout its tenure, the Foundation focused primarily on providing scholarship opportunities to exceptional lay students in the field of social work and funding publication efforts for experts of social problems. They also participated in book and pamphlet sales, group publications, surveys, lecture tours, translations of Kerby's works into other languages, essay and letter writing contests with religious schools, a long-standing financial support of the publication 'The Commonweal,' financial support and encouragement to the foundation of other religious social work organizations, memorial projects for deceased leaders in the organization, and establishing student representation boards for national organizations.
The Foundation republished Kerby's works 'The Social Mission of Charity,' and 'Prophets of the Better Hope.' They also published his unfinished notes on sociology, 'Introduction to Social Living,' and a compilation of his essays on priestly life that had originally appeared in the Ecclesiastical Review under the title 'The Considerate Priest,' as well as numerous leaflet publications based on his teachings. In 1951, the Foundation published a book of essays, primarily contributions from members of the organization, entitled 'The Lawyer Looks Beyond the Law.' The last major publication project the Foundation undertook was in 1958, a volume of surveys designed as a memorial to Monsignor Russell entitled 'Shaping the Christian Message.'
Although the Foundation did not consider itself a political organization in any manner, it focused on staunchly pro-democratic ideas, and based much of its literature on the ideals of preserving American freedom, strengthening the American understanding of the Declaration of Independence, and protecting Americans against an influx of communistic ideas or materialistic secularism. Fearing secularization of social services, whether through communist ideals or capitalistic materialism, the Foundation strove to restore religious aid and social teachings to the forefront in the battles against social issues.
Local chapters of the Foundation were established in Syracuse, Utica, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C., to function as civic organizations sponsoring local projects that emphasized the principles of the Foundation.
The organization disbanded in 1972, due to financial difficulties and increasing efforts on the part of other organizations, such as the Newman Foundation, to continue the work that the Kerby Foundation began.
The William J. Kerby Foundation Records consist of internal official documents, reports and minutes of meetings, financial accounts, correspondence, publications, and manuscripts relating to the work of the Foundation, focusing on the years of the Foundation's incorporation, between 1942 and 1972.
The first series, "Internal Documents," spans the years 1936 to 1971, and includes several histories of the organization written for publication purposes, material regarding the life of Dr. Kerby that they used to inform their organizational purpose, correspondence between officers and trustees, legal documents, and folders for some of the most involved members of the organization.
The second series is the "Annual Meeting" series, which consists entirely of reports and minutes from the annual meetings of the Foundation between officers and trustees, held each year between 1944 and 1971.
The third series, "Financial Papers," consists of official budget, tax, and financial papers for the organization, including major contributions, bank statements, and correspondence with trustees regarding financial matters.
The fourth series, "Correspondence," consists entirely of correspondence, primarily written to officers of the Foundation. This is where general public requests, letters from other institutions, thank you cards, and other general correspondence is filed.
The fifth series, "Printing and Publications," consists of information relating to the printing and publication efforts of the organization, including publications, inventories, correspondence with the printing press, magazines, and pamphlets. Although their publication efforts were among their more substantial and lasting projects, there is little in the series to suggest their widespread effect. There are few reviews or letters in the series itself (although there are several letters in the "Correspondence" series that relate further information about individual publications).
The sixth series, "Grants and Fellowships," consists of correspondence between the Foundation as a grant-in-aid organization and grant seekers. This is the largest series, by far, and is organized either by subject files, when an organization received or requested multiple grants, or by year, for individuals or organizations requested or received grants once.
The seventh series, "Shaping the Christian Message," consists of the manuscript for the publication of 'Shaping the Christian Message,' and the reviews and responses to its publication and distribution. This book was the last major publication project for the Foundation, and was designed and gifted to influential members of the community as a memorial for Monsignor William Russell.
The eighth series, "Other Projects," consists primarily of materials relating to more involved projects outside the publication and grant-in-aid rubric, including councils and conferences to which the Foundation made intellectual contributions, and memorial projects for deceased officers and major contributors.
The ninth series, "Subject," consists of various materials of interest or concern to the Foundation, while outside the scope of their efforts. These files contains letters, flyers, and a manuscript, on subjects ranging from the controversial racist figure Carleton Putnam to the Campus Studies Institute, an effort to mitigate the effects of radical student groups like the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). These files do not contain notes or positions on the material.
The William J. Kerby Foundation Records consists of 9 series:
Restrictions on Access
This collection was assembled from two donations, both made by John C. Cermak, the last active officer of the Washington, D.C. branch of the Foundation. The first donation, made in 1984, consisted of correspondence, minutes, reports, lists, accounts, and photographs. The second donation, amde in 1988, consisted of correspondence, subject files, and grant information.
Processing completed in December 2010 by Lauren Kanne. EAD markup completed in February 2011 by Lauren Kanne.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C.
William Joseph Kerby Papers
Russell, William Henry
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
William Joseph Kerby
Catholic University of America
National Catholic School of Social Work
National Conference of Catholic Charities
Charitable uses, trusts, and foundations
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