In Memoriam: Joseph N. Pew III (Spring 2011 Trust Magazine)

Source Organization: The Pew Charitable Trusts

08/05/2011 -  


When Joseph N. Pew Jr. and his three siblings created The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1948 to honor their parents, Joseph N. and Mary Anderson Pew, he turned to his son to join them on its original board of directors. Joseph N. Pew III, then 25, began a lifetime of service that stretched over six decades to the institution that bears his family’s name.

On March 23, 2011, he passed away, having left his imprint on the organization, its work and its achievements as an exemplary steward of the Pews’ commitment to serving the social good.

It is a legacy that continues in his family, with three of his children currently serving on the board.

Born in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Mr. Pew was the third child and first son of Joseph N. Pew Jr. and Alberta C. Pew. He graduated from the Haverford School and attended Stanford University, where he met his future wife, Doris Myers.

After service in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he completed his studies at Stanford and returned to live in Philadelphia. He worked as an engineer for Sun Oil Company, which had been incorporated by his grandfather in 1880 and was later led by his father, with whom he worked for many years.

Mr. Pew was an avid small plane pilot, enthusiastic golfer and devoted outdoorsman. He especially enjoyed fishing, bird hunting and horseback riding in the Arizona mountains, which he had first visited as a child to ease his asthma.

He was remembered as a modest man who at the same time was relentlessly tough-minded and intellectually curious. His children wrote in a tribute that “his opinions, always highly valued, were delivered with a deliberate thoughtfulness and clarity.”

Through his intimate knowledge of the founders’ vision for Pew, he was instrumental in reinforcing their values throughout the organization’s history. He also was a leading voice on the board in urging Pew to innovate and evolve in order to address the new problems facing society over the past 60 years. He would often note that the founders wisely designed the institution to have flexibility and foresight to address new issues and that they would expect Pew’s leadership to exercise sound judgment in anticipating these challenges.

“They gave us the stewardship responsibility to lead this institution as the needs of society change, so let’s exercise it wisely,” he reminded his fellow board members.

In speaking to the staff a few days after Mr. Pew’s passing, president and CEO Rebecca W. Rimel recalled his integrity, humility and dedication.

She noted that those same qualities help guide the institution’s work. “We maintain a high level of diligence, thoughtfulness and care in all that we do, mindful of what Joe would always say to us: ‘This organization has the use of not any name, but my name.’ He wanted us to use it well,” she said.

The Pew staff offer their condolences to Mr. Pew’s family and resolve to carry on the essential work of the organization that made him so proud: utilizing the power of knowledge to help solve today’s most pressing problems.

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