The Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation
Harry and Margaret Towsley and The Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation
Harry and Margaret Towsley were both born in the early 1900s and raised in Midland, Michigan. Despite the prominence of both of their families, each led a relatively quiet life in this small community and attended its public primary and secondary schools. Harry's father was Dr. Frank A. Towsley, a physician and Mayor of Midland; Margaret was a daughter of Herbert Henry Dow, the founder of The Dow Chemical Company.
Both Harry and Margaret attended the University of Michigan where Margaret Dow graduated in 1928. She moved on to Columbia Teachers College in New York City to complete a masters degree program in Education. Harry graduated from the University of Michigan's Medical School in 1931 and embarked on a teaching career at the University in pediatrics and post-graduate education. The couple remained residents of Ann Arbor for the rest of their lives until their deaths in 1993 and 1994. They raised five children, three of whom survive and are active trustees of the Towsley Foundation.
Margaret joined the new University of Michigan Nursery School as an assistant teacher in the early 1930s and, in 1936, she founded the Towsley Nursery School in the couple's residence on Berkshire Road. In the early 1950s she became the first woman member of the Ann Arbor City Council and also led the development of Planned Parenthood as one of its pioneers - an effort she continued until her death.
Dr. Towsley's career also followed a leadership path. He was elected president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1956 and he was the moving force behind the Towsley Center for post-graduate medical education at the University.
In 1959, Margaret created the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation with an initial gift of $4 Million in Dow Chemical Company stock. While the Foundation's initial goals were typical of general family foundations, its mission later became focused on programs promoting education, health care, shelter, and nutrition for children. As its assets grew, its areas of concentration expanded into college and university education, medical education, planned parenthood, and interdisciplinary programs with the schools of law and social work. These areas reflected Dr. and Mrs. Towsley's common interest in teaching.
Dr. Towsley served as the Foundation's manager and president until the mid-1980s when the couple's oldest daughter, Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker, took the position. She, in turn, served until 1999 when her sister, Lynn Towsley White, succeeded her. The Foundation's assets grew from the initial $4 million in 1959 to over $81 million at the end of the century. After the death of Dr. and Mrs. Towsley, the Foundation's executive offices were moved from Ann Arbor to Midland, Michigan.