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Corbett Foundation closing after 60 years and $70M in gifts

CINCINNATI (Joe Webb) -- A silver shovel from the 1984 groundbreaking of Riverbend Music Center leaned up against her office wall as Karen McKim packed up Wednesday morning.

After 60 years of arts philanthropy, The Corbett Foundation is closing its doors. The last gifts will push the giving total well over $70-million dollars.

"They will soon be distributed according to a plan that was put together years ago so that Mrs. Corbett had a voice in the final distribution," McKim told Local 12 between calls and visits from former clients.

Ralph and Patricia Corbett started the foundation in 1955 with the fortune he'd amassed selling NuTone door chimes. The couple had decided to dissolve the foundation after their deaths. Mr. Corbett passed away in 1988. Mrs. Corbett died in 2008. The foundation's three trustees decided to shut things down and close the office this week.

"It just felt like it was time," McKim said.

The foundation's legacy is substantial and visible. The Corbetts contributed $2-million to help build Riverbend. Their name is on performance and rehearsal space from Northern Kentucky University to Cincinnati's West End.

"They really wanted to enhance Cincinnati's life," said McKim. "They loved the arts and they wanted everybody to love it. They wanted people who couldn't afford what they could afford to love it as much as they did and make it accessible as much as they possibly could."

At the Cincinnati Ballet's office and rehearsal space Wednesday morning, an amateur ballet class danced in a studio down the hall from where the professional company was hard at work. A portrait of Patricia Corbett hung on the wall.

"You look at this building. Look at these studios and you know these studios are here because Pat Corbett decided it was important to her," Cincinnati Ballet Artistic director and CEO Victoria Morgan said with a smile. "And she thought it was important to the community and, thankfully, to the ballet."

At the University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music, the Corbett Foundation's generosity is hard to miss.  Dean Peter Landgren met the Corbetts when he was a CCM French Horn student in the 1970's. He says the impact goes far beyond bricks and mortar.

"We've got scholarship students. We have an entire building, the Corbett Center named for them.  We have our two largest performance venues. We have a TV studio named for them. We have four faculty chairs that the Corbett Foundation has sponsored."

McKim declined to give details of the final distribution. The Corbetts had discussed dissolving the Foundation long before Ralph Corbett's death.

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