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Born in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1876, Fred L. Emerson relocated to Auburn, New York at the age of 28 to take a position as an order clerk at Dunn and McCarthy, a women’s shoe manufacturer. He remained at the company for the next 44 years and retired as president in 1948.


During his tenure, Fred adopted many forward-thinking techniques and practices, as well as innovative marketing strategies, to transform what was a traditional shoe manufacturer into a market leader. He also led Dunn and McCarthy through a period of expansion and growth during the Great Depression, at a time when many companies were scaling back operations. By 1930, the company employed 5,000 workers and produced over 27,000 pairs of shoes daily. 


As the company grew, Fred came to understand the opportunity he was afforded to shape the community in which he lived and worked. In addition to championing and supporting many community agencies and organizations, he was known to assist employees and members of the community in need. In 1932, Fred established the Foundation “to codify his personal giving and to ensure its longevity beyond his lifetime.” 


For almost three decades, William M. Emerson, along with his wife Lillian V., led the Foundation to new heights, both growing its assets and expanding its giving to include higher education, while instilling Fred’s values and beliefs in the next generations of the family. The third generation of leadership not only guided the Foundation through a period of transition, but also initiated a transformation marked by re-examining its mission and bringing the fourth generation into the fold. 


In just over 90 years, the Foundation has granted more than $155 million to support a range of services including community development, education, health and human services, parks and recreation, performing arts, and preservation. With the fourth and fifth generation descendants actively engaged in setting the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities, the Foundation continues in Fred’s footsteps to serve Auburn and the surrounding central New York area. 

Board Presidents

Fred L. Emerson



William M. Emerson



William V. Emerson



Peter J. Emerson



W. Gary Emerson



David L. Emerson



Anthony D. Franceschelli


Kristen E. Rubacka


Lori E. Robinson


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