Raising the Barre

Christian Keesee, president of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund and grandson of John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick, at the Oklahoma City Ballet’s new facility. Photo by Shevaun Williams

Beautiful. Inspiring. Emotional. Magical. These are just a few words that come to mind when remembering your first experience at the ballet. The enchanting art form can transport you to another world, evoking an emotional response to the story being told through dance.

This powerful experience is exactly what our founder, John E. Kirkpatrick, wanted to bring to Oklahoma City residents when he and Eleanor helped found the Oklahoma City Ballet. In December 1963, under the artistic direction of Yvonne Chouteau and Miguel Terekhov, the young ballet company first performed The Nutcracker for a wide-eyed Oklahoma City audience. Nearly 55 years later, the annual performance has become a holiday tradition for the community.

Always looking toward the future, Mr. Kirkpatrick helped the Oklahoma City Ballet establish a permanent endowment at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation. He leveraged his own charitable dollars to encourage others to give to the fund through a series of Kirkpatrick Challenges that offered matching dollars for endowment contributions. As the endowment grew, so did the annual support the Oklahoma City Ballet received from the fund, ensuring the organization could continue to bring the magic and beauty of the ballet to our community.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kirkpatrick not only started these endowment funds, they continued to support them and encouraged others to do so for the next 20 years,” Nancy B. Anthony, Oklahoma City Community Foundation President said.

This generous tradition continues today through the Kirkpatrick Family Fund’s endowment matching grant program. Since the first match was offered in 1979, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund has contributed more than $45 million in matching funds to charitable organization endowments at the Community Foundation. In addition, these matches have evoked millions of dollars in donor contributions, as well as resulting investment appreciation.

In 2017, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund extended a new challenge to the Oklahoma City Ballet, offering a $150,000 match for $450,000 in contributions to their endowment by Dec. 31, 2018. The match is part of a $2 million gift from the Kirkpatrick Philanthropies to support the Oklahoma City Ballet, its new facility and its dance school that was renamed for Yvonne Chouteau.

“The ballet is an organization my grandfather cared for immensely,” said Christian Keesee, Kirkpatrick Family Fund president. “Our hope for this gift is to continue the ballet company’s trajectory as a regional powerhouse with a strong school, which will impact future generations of Oklahomans and our city’s overall cultural landscape.”

To make a gift to the match for the Oklahoma City Ballet, or to find other charitable organizations currently participating in a Kirkpatrick Family Fund match, visit occf.org/site/kffmatch.