Edyth Bassler was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where she developed an early and deep love for the arts. A colorful and enthusiastic individual, she was to become an accomplished dancer, actress, playwright and philanthropist.
Archibald Granville Bush worked as a junior bookkeeper for the small, unknown Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company in St. Paul, Minnesota. After learning that salespeople could make more money than accountants, Archibald volunteered to open a new sales territory for the company in Chicago. There he met Edyth Bassler, who had become a prominent actress and fixture in the arts community. The couple married and decided to invest her $15,000 dowry into what Edyth would later describe as “the struggling sandpaper company that Archie had a good feeling about” and later became known as 3M.
The couple moved to St. Paul and, in 1941, built The Edyth Bush Little Theatre, which still stands today. Edyth managed the theatre and directed and performed in many of its productions.
The Bushes worked together to help build the 3M company and to strengthen the community in which they lived. Through hard work and conservative living, they amassed a substantial fortune and became active in the philanthropic community both in St. Paul and in Winter Park, Florida, where they eventually established a winter home. On their first trip to Winter Park, the Bushes were greeted at the train by then Rollins College President Hugh McKean and his wife, Jeannette Genius McKean.
Archibald later served as a Trustee of Rollins College. Edyth donated funds to build the college’s first science building, as a memorial to her late husband.
Archibald became the Chairman, CEO and – along with Edyth – the largest shareholder of the company. When he died, his foundation in St. Paul estimated to be valued at $300 million.
After Archibald’s death, Edyth decided to make Winter Park her permanent home. With no children of her own, she was drawn to working with children who were “crippled” or from limited means. Dedicating herself to “alleviating human suffering and helping people help themselves,” she established the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation to continue her work.
Edyth Bush was a community activist well before she established the Foundation. She was deeply engaged in both the St. Paul and Winter Park communities and acted on her deep and abiding affection for people, especially those less fortunate.
After her husband’s death, she moved permanently to Florida accompanied by trusted legal and financial advisors who, like her, were seasoned in the traditions and practices of the philanthropy of the Midwest. Together they established the Foundation in Central Florida and worked locally and statewide to strengthen the caring community.
The Foundation awarded its first grant to the United Way of Orange County, known today as the Heart of Florida United Way. Within a few years, the focus on education and the arts was expanded to include health and human service efforts with the firm belief that the Foundation’s best work was helping nonprofits be better managed, governed and led. In addition to providing funds, significant resources are dedicated to strengthening nonprofit leadership in the community and building the capacity of the organizations it funds.
When Edyth Bassler Bush died, the Foundation honored her love of the arts with a grant to complete a theater for the Orlando Players in Loch Haven Park. The theater, now part of the Orlando Repertory Theatre, bears her name.