Richard Lounsbery was born in New York City in 1882 to affluent
parents, Richard P. Lounsbery and Edith Hunter Haggin Lounsbery.
The family's antecedents were generally of English origin,
with most having come to America during colonial times. One
exception was Richard's great-great-grandfather, Ibrahim Ben
Ali, whose life was marked by tragedy. Born in Turkey in 1756,
Ben Ali was trained as a doctor and became a captain in the
Turkish army. He lost his entire family when mob violence
erupted in Istanbul, and was later imprisoned by the Russians
during a conflict between Russia and Turkey. Eventually freed
thanks to the intervention of a British general in whose charge
he had been placed, Ben Ali traveled extensively through Europe,
became a Christian, and later migrated to the United States.
He settled in Philadelphia, where he married an Englishwoman
and set up practice as a physician. Sadly, Ben Ali contracted
yellow fever while ministering to patients during an epidemic
that struck Philadelphia and Baltimore, and he died in 1800.
He was survived by his wife and infant daughter, Adeline Sally.
The middle name, "Ben Ali" appears several times among his
Lounsbery family's wealth was derived from the extensive business
activities of James Ben Ali Haggin, grandson of Ibrahim Ben
Ali and the grandfather of Richard Lounsbery. Born in Kentucky
in 1822, Haggin opened a law office in Sacramento, California
in 1850 to take advantage of opportunities provided by the
Gold Rush. He and his partner were instrumental in forming
several highly successful mining operations in the American
West and later abroad. They helped to solidify the United
States position in the copper industry and also played a role
in developing California farmland and implementing legislation
controlling the state's water rights. Through these initiatives,
Haggin formed a close friendship with Senator George Hearst.
Haggin married Eliza Jane Sanders in 1852,
and the couple had five children. Their daughter Edith married
Richard P. Lounsbery in 1878. Richard P. Lounsbery was a descendant
of a distinguished pre-Revolution family noted in the Harvard
archives for the bequest of a scholarship in 1670. He assumed
an active role in the Haggin family business, which moved
its headquarters to New York City. Richard Lounsbery-creator
of the Lounsbery Foundation-was the couple's only child. He
was born in 1882.
RICHARD AND VERA LOUNSBERY
Richard attended St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire,
and graduated from Harvard College in 1906. After college,
Richard joined the family business, traveling extensively
to gain familiarity with its widespread enterprises. He extended
the business' activities into new areas such as importing
silk from Japan. When his father died in 1912, Richard considered
taking over the family firm. However, as a result of a bout
of illness, he decided to change fields and joined the investment
firm of J. B. Harris and Company, soon becoming a familiar
figure in the New York banking community.
After serving in France as an Army lieutenant
in World War I, Richard stayed in that country to study art.
Thus began his love affair with France, which was to last
all his life. He split his time between Paris and New York
and became a prominent member of the business and social life
of both cities. He was also an excellent amateur painter and
enthusiastic golfer on both continents.
Richard married Vera Victoroff, a Russian refugee
living in Paris, in 1928. During nearly forty happy years
together, they shared many interests and continued to divide
their time between Paris and New York.
THE FOUNDATION'S FORMATIVE YEARS
After Richard's death in 1967, Vera Victoroff Lounsbery worked
with the attorney Alan F. McHenry to develop a clear-cut set
of goals for the Foundation. McHenry went on to serve as the
first president of the Foundation, retaining that position
until his death in 1993. His interest in American and French cultural and scientific
affairs closely matched that of both Lounsberys, and he created
programs and awards of which they would undoubtedly have approved.
Over the years, the Board has continued to implement programs
focused along the guidelines established by Vera and McHenry,
while adapting to changing times and opportunities.
Other advisers to the Lounsberys included Benjamin
F. Borden, Edward R. Finch, and Leon Schaefler. Borden served
as secretary-treasurer until 1996. Schaefler, along with Alan
McHenry, was trustee and advisor to the original trust fund
created in Richard Lounsbery's will, which contained a major
portion of the Foundation's endowment. His son-in-law, Richard
H. Pershan, holds that position today.
In 1978, Vera established the Lounsbery Award
in honor of her husband. This award is presented
annually to a distinguished investigator in biology or medicine
who has been selected by a jury of seven members representing
the National Academy of Sciences of the United States and
the Academie des Sciences of France.