The Flinn Foundation celebrates 50 years

June 1, 2015

By Matt Ellsworth

50th AnniversaryThe Flinn Foundation in 2015 is celebrating 50 years since its founding by a generous Phoenix couple as a means to perpetuate their personal goodness and humanity in a way that would benefit the residents of Arizona.

Dr. Robert Flinn, a cardiologist and one of Arizona’s leading medical practitioners, and Irene Flinn, a woman of considerable wealth and generous philanthropy, created the privately endowed grantmaking organization in Phoenix in 1965. Their mission was elegantly simply: “To improve the quality of life in Arizona.”

Dr. Flinn headed the departments of cardiology and electrocardiography at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix. He was chief of the medical staff at St. Joseph’s and at Phoenix Memorial Hospital, president of both state and county medical societies, and co-founder and first president of the Arizona affiliate of the American Heart Association.

Irene Flinn, at one time among the nation’s largest shareholders of IBM stock, was a private woman whose generosity was matched by her desire for anonymity.  Long before the birth of the Flinn Foundation, she was accustomed to philanthropic giving on a personal basis, though insisted that she not be recognized for her deeds.

Dr. Flinn died in 1984 at age 87; Mrs. Flinn in 1978 at age 78.

Flinn Foundation grants initially focused on advancing medical education and biomedical research. In the 1980s, the Foundation began funding more broadly in the health care field and expanded into other program areas for the first time. The Flinn Scholars program and funding for the arts debuted in the mid-1980s. In the early 2000s, the Foundation narrowed its health care focus to advance the biosciences in Arizona, and in 2010, the Foundation created the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership to develop state-level leaders. In 2015, the Foundation unveiled its new 50th anniversary logo.

The Foundation’s first employee, John Murphy, retired in 2009 after leading the organization for 28 years as its CEO.  Today, under the leadership of President & CEO Jack B. Jewett and Board Chair David J. Gullen, the Flinn Foundation has grown to 21 employees and an endowment of nearly $220 million.  The Foundation is one of Arizona’s largest and longest-standing philanthropic trusts.