Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 25
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton

BEST JOB: “I have often said to people that this has to be the best job around. It gives me license to know tons of people doing wonderful things; people who are passionate about this community. Generous people.” As President and Executive Director of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, Nancy W. Kieling is in a position to bring help to many individuals, groups, and organizations throughout the Greater Mercer County area and beyond.

Nancy W. Kieling, Executive Director of Princeton Area Community Foundation, Has Strong Princeton Ties

Nancy W. Kieling has found her calling. She forges connections, builds endowments, and promotes philanthropy. Through her work as President and Executive Director of the Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF), she is uniquely able to help a wide spectrum of people in various walks of life throughout the area.

“Philanthropy is defined in the dictionary as ‘the active effort to promote human welfare,’” says Ms. Kieling. “Philanthropy consists of time, talent, and treasure.”

Since joining PACF in 1994, she has enthusiastically and capably supported its mission and contributed significantly to its growth.

“Over the past 15 years, Nancy has created a solid foundation under the Community Foundation, enabling the Princeton Area Community Foundation to become the first nationally certified community foundation in the state and the only one in central New Jersey,” points out Ralph Serpe, PACF’s Executive Vice President.

Guidance and Vision

“Through the Community Foundation, Nancy has created the best community grant-making program in Princeton. Each year, scores of local non-profits and thousands of people they serve benefit from Nancy’s guidance and vision.”

Adds Jim Floyd, former Mayor of Princeton Township, former PACF board member, and who currently serves on the grants committee: “Nancy has the ability to remind us what our mission is. And our mission is service; service to those who need it and who can benefit from what we have to offer. That isn’t only money. Nancy is also capable of advice and counsel that benefits the board members, the grants committee members, and indeed, the beneficiaries, namely the non-profits.”

The beneficiary herself of a happy childhood, a fine education, and a life of opportunities, Ms. Kieling is a perfect example of one who seeks to give back.

Born and brought up in Princeton, she is the youngest daughter of Jane and Bob Whitehead. She and her sisters, Mary and Gretchen, grew up in the family home on Edgehill Street, and attended nearby schools.

“I had a great childhood,” she remembers. “A wonderful family, close neighborhood, and the freedom to be a kid. Princeton in the 1950s was a small town with all the best a small town could offer, but with many things most small towns can’t offer, like school trips to the Museum of Natural History in New York and the Rotolactor at Walker-Gordon Dairy closer to home.

“The Public Library was in Bainbridge House (current home of the Historical Society), and we were there all the time. What we loved as kids were things like the big trees in Marquand Park that were great for climbing and the penny candy store on John Street. We’d buy warm roasted peanuts at Cox’s to put in our mittens. We skated every winter on the lake.

Part of Things

“We walked to school (first Nassau Street School, then Quarry Street School), and we had lots of unstructured time. We knew the local merchants where my family shopped — there were no malls, big box stores, or national chains. We knew the families of our friends, and they knew us — well. Our lives were full of connections, and we felt part of things.

“All through school,” she continues, “there were teachers I really liked a lot. I remember Mrs. Scrubbs in fourth grade, Mrs. Volweider in fifth, and Mrs. Harris in sixth grade. They must have been really good teachers for me to remember them after all these years.”

Ms. Kieling recalls liking school, starting French in the third grade, enjoying math and languages, singing in the glee club in middle school, and on weekends, she and her friends went to the movies at The Playhouse and Garden Theaters.

Her father taught at what was then Princeton Country Day School, and every summer the family traveled to New Hampshire to spend almost two and a half months on their island home in the middle of Squam Lake. ”We went up in late June and stayed until Labor Day,” recalls Ms. Kieling. “There was lots of swimming, boating, reading, and we also played cards, backgammon, and did jigsaw puzzles.”

It was wonderful, she remembers — even without electricity and running water!

Her mother, especially, had a strong influence on her. “She was a wonderful person. I feel the impact of her in my life every day,” says Ms. Kieling.

After a year at Princeton High School, Nancy went away to boarding school at The Abbot Academy in Andover, Mass., where she played field hockey and lacrosse. She was a good student, continuing to enjoy languages and math.

Memorable Adventure

When she was 18, Nancy embarked on a memorable adventure with her family that continues to resonate today. “My dad left teaching to fulfill a dream he had always had. We took a year and traveled all over western Europe, including England, Norway, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany, among other countries. We settled in Munich during October and November, and had an apartment in Austria for December, January, and February. It was an extraordinary experience.

“My parents had spent their honeymoon in Germany in 1938 before World War II, and they always wanted to go back. While I was there, I really learned the language, and I attended the Goethe Institut.”

Having deferred college for one year, Nancy returned to the U.S. in 1967, and entered the University of Wisconsin. “After being at a small girls’ school, I wanted to go to a large co-ed university, and I wanted to get out of the east,” she reports. “My interest was in languages, and Wisconsin had an excellent language department — although I ended up majoring in European history.”

The 1960s and early ’70s were turbulent times in the country and on many college campuses. Protests against the war in Vietnam were commonplace, especially at some of the larger universities.

“It was a very unsettled time on campus,” recalls Ms. Kieling. “The most unrest was on the campuses of Ann Arbor (Michigan), Madison (Wisconsin), and Berkeley (California). There were significant demonstrations, and we weren’t always able to get into the classrooms.”

The size of the university (40,000 students) was also a factor in campus life, and as she says, “Campuses like that don’t coddle you. It was so big, with so many students, that I walked the same route to class every Tuesday, and I never saw the same person.”

Junior Year Abroad

It was excellent academically, however, and intellectually challenging. “For history majors, most classes were large lectures,” says Ms. Kieling. “Professor Harvey Goldberg was famous for European history, and everyone wanted to get into his class.”

In addition, the university offered a junior year abroad program, and she spent a year in Freiburg, Germany on the edge of the Black Forest. “This was really more of a bonding experience than the other three years,” she says, “I made a very good friend who is still a dear friend today, and I also met my husband! If it weren’t for Germany, we wouldn’t have met.”

Jared Kieling was a Princeton University student, also spending his junior year in Freiburg.

After Nancy’s graduation in 1971, she returned to Princeton, where Jared was now a senior. This was the start of an intriguing, eclectic career that ultimately led her — albeit circuitously — to the Princeton Area Community Foundation. To be near Jared, she got a job in the Office of Population Research at the University, remaining there for one year.

An R.O.T.C. student while in college, Jared went into the Navy after graduation, and was stationed in Newport, R.I. Nancy joined him, and worked for the Newport Music Festival, an annual event featuring 19th Century romantic music.

They were married in Princeton in 1973 in the University Chapel, and then moved to Norfolk, Va. While there, Nancy earned a Masters of Science and Education degree, with a specialty in higher education administration, from Old Dominion University.

Another Change

After two and a half years in Norfolk, Jared left the Navy, and started a career in publishing in New York City. “We came back to Princeton, and I worked in the undergraduate admissions department at Princeton for six years,” says Ms. Kieling. “The first year, we lived in the McGee Apartments by the Boat House, and then in 1977, we moved to West Windsor, where we continue to live today.”

Another change came in 1982, when she headed to Manhattan and to a position in banking. “I went to work at the Bank of New York in the corporate lending office. I had always liked math, and this was a great learning experience. I learned things at the bank that allowed me to do this work today.”

The Kielings’ daughter, Gretchen, was born in 1986, and Ms. Kieling took time off to be at home with her. Then, after eight years, she found out about an opening at the Princeton Area Community Foundation.

“I hadn’t heard of the foundation,” she notes. “A friend called up and said she’d seen an ad for a position as executive director. The requirements were: to know the area, working with volunteers, and understand finance.”

It seemed like a match right away, and Ms. Kieling, one of a number of candidates, was promptly hired as the executive director.

Since the foundation’s beginning in 1991, it had been run by a board, and Ms. Kieling’s presence was felt immediately, notes former board member Sandra Persichetti, now Executive Director of Princeton Community Housing. “When PACF first started, it had total assets of $300,000, and it is now upwards of $50 million. That is due to Nancy and her very capable staff, and the board members. Nancy not only learned the foundation business, and I believe, found her calling, but she was wise enough to hire very capable staff members.

Equally Comfortable

“And I think what’s interesting about Nancy and unusual in many foundation directors is that she’s equally comfortable raising funds and distributing them. She’s very knowledgeable about the various programs that apply for funding. And she truly believes in the mission.”

“My charge essentially was to build the endowment into a long-term permanent endowment for a geographical area — greater Mercer County,” explains Ms. Kieling. As the foundation’s mission states: “The Princeton Area Community Fund builds community by promoting and encouraging philanthropy across greater Mercer County and central New Jersey. It now manages 250 charitable funds, including 20 agency endowments created by the Community Foundation and members of the community for the long-term benefit of central New Jersey.

“Our motivation is simple: no one knows what the region’s needs will be in 20, 50, or 100 years, yet we do know that later generations will require substantial charitable resources to respond to the issues of the day. We offer all people who care about this place a simple way to create a lasting remembrance of their lives, values, and commitment.

“Our work falls into three basic areas:

We attract charitable gifts from individuals, families, businesses, and foundations for all types of local needs.

We invest funds for long-term stability and prudent growth.

We distribute grants through a competitive process and according to donors’ wishes.

Our principal aim is to help donors build permanent endowments for the support of greater Mercer County. Local needs change over time. We help donors give gifts today that will remain effective forever.”

Charitable Funds

Basically, a community foundation is an organization designed to make it possible for anyone to support their community now and in the future. It attracts monetary donations, manages and invests the money, and gives money through grants to support non-profit organizations.

Community foundations manage many charitable funds under one roof. They have been called “a charitable mutual fund and a regional savings bank,” notes Ms. Kieling, adding, “A community foundation is like a three-legged stool with asset builders, investment managers, and grant-makers. A community foundation attracts long-term charitable dollars for the well-being of the community. It’s a long-term asset of the region.

“I think this region should know we’re here, and feel great that we’re here. It’s a resource that’s here for a long time,” she continues. “It has been built by people who lived here and care a lot about the community.”

Individuals can support PACF by making a monetary contribution or by establishing a fund. In the latter case, one chooses a percentage of the fund to be distributed annually, based on the giving priorities. The money can be directed to one organization, agency, etc., or to several.

Some of the funds established specifically in Princeton that are managed by PACF are: Friends of the Princeton Public Library, Princeton Community Housing, Princeton Pro Musica, Princeton Senior Resource Center, Princeton Symphony Orchestra, Spirit of Princeton, Leslie “Bud” Vivian Memorial Fund, Princeton Hospice Fund, and the Princeton Youth Fund, among numerous others.

In the case of grant-making, specific guidelines apply, points out Ms. Kieling. “We will probably make 50 grants totaling one million dollars this year. Applicants must initially meet two important guidelines. One, they must provide program and operating support for organizations working with low income people, and two, emphasize programs that are building community.”

Social Capital

The latter case incorporates the concept of social capital, which is an important element in everyone’s life. It’s the bonds and relationships that connect people — social, professional, municipal, etc. It has been found that when individuals are invested in each other and their communities, they are more likely to vote, volunteer, care for one another, and cooperate even when they disagree.

“We fund organizations that bring people repeatedly together and build real working relationships, such as People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos,” says Ms. Kieling. “As an institution, we are very accountable to the community and the people at large.

“We have also felt for a long time that within Mercer County, there are a lot of divisions, such as Route One, I-95, municipal boundaries, etc. If I can go to my ‘great reward’ knowing that some of these divisions have been lessened, I’ll be happy.”

Ms. Kieling is also proud of the growth of the foundation. “The organization has changed a lot in the past 15 years. There is now a full-time staff of six, and it is absolutely a superb staff. No one could have a better staff.”

She is equally pleased that both she and the foundation have been able to thrive in an area of such diversity and vitality. “The region is so rich in so many things to do, with interesting people and its proximity to New York and Philadelphia. I am fortunate to still be connected to the town I grew up in. I still know the folks I grew up with on Edgehill Street. Princeton is not a small town anymore, though. It’s part of a much bigger and more diverse region. I like the diversity and variety across the county and feel it’s a tremendous asset to us all.”

Ms. Kieling and her husband enjoy riding bikes, visiting museums, including the Princeton University Art Museum, and she is a walker. ‘I walk nearly every day for three miles, and a month ago, I was in the Walking Half-Marathon in New York, and I finished.”

Icing on the Cake

The Kielings travel regularly to Minneapolis to visit their daughter, Gretchen, who is living and working there after graduating from Macalester College.

“She is a wonderful and talented young woman, and I am infinitely proud of her just for who she is,” says Ms. Kieling. “Her accomplishments are the icing on the cake. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy being her parents.”

In the summer, they also spend a few weeks at their island home in New Hampshire, a time she eagerly looks forward to, reports Ms. Kieling. “No cell phones, computers, Blackberries! I get to read when I’m on the island. Last summer, it was Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat and Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, both excellent.

Her heart is clearly with the Community Foundation, however, and as she says, “I am very intertwined with the organization. The act of giving is something the foundation encourages people to do. You’ve heard the saying: ‘give till it hurts.’ I prefer: ‘give till it feels good.’ Giving till it feels good can mean giving a lot more. Giving is a 100 percent discretionary behavior. My own behavior has changed distinctly since I’ve been here. Giving is now in our budget.

“Also, we’re not in an ivory tower here — we know what it’s like to raise money, which we have to do to run our organization.”

Along the way, she has met “generous, thoughtful, compassionate people” who have supported the foundation’s goals, and she is grateful for their contribution. For an individual or an organization to be successful, honesty must be uppermost, she believes. “Being true to oneself, a deep concern for others — both those in one’s inner circle, and those we may never know but whose lives we touch — that’s the essence of philanthropy and of living in a community.

“It took me a long time to have a calling for myself,” she continues. “I found it when I was 45 and came here, and now I am honored to have the chance to serve the entire region by helping to build a vital and generous Community Foundation. I am very lucky to have meaningful work that will have an impact into the future.”

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