Alum stars as theatre benefactor

A philanthropic organization started on behalf of a Nebraska farmer provided the seed money to build Kimmel Theatre.

In 1999 Cornell received a $1.2 million grant from the Richard P. Kimmel and Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation Inc. of Lincoln. The foundation supports projects related to education, arts, agriculture, human services, and the humanities.

Richard graduated from Cornell in 1919 after studying psychology and economics and business. On campus he was a member of the Miltonian Literary Society, lettered in tennis, was an active member of the debate team, and performed in Disraeli in 1916.

Early in his career Kimmel worked for the Otoe (Neb.) National Bank as a teller and went on to spend nearly 50 years as a member of the bank’s board of directors. In 1925 he left banking to pursue his real love as the third-generation manager of the family’s agricultural properties in Otoe County. He and Laurine, an art teacher who later gained national stature for her watercolor paintings, lived almost their entire married lives in a residence at the Kimmel Orchard just north of Nebraska City. The farm produced its own apple cider and stocked peaches, grapes, raspberries, cherries, and other produce. He celebrated Arbor Day by inviting guests to drive among the blossoms.

In 1981 the couple established the Richard and Laurine Kimmel Endowed Scholarship at Cornell, which has benefited students in fine arts, business administration, and economics. Laurine died in 1993 at the age of 92; Richard died in 1996 at age 98. After his death, the Kimmel Foundation provided additional funding for several scholarships that covered full tuition, room, and board for students from Nebraska.