Zurn Foundation Marks 70 Years of Inspired Philanthropic Giving


On Friday, October 9, 1953, chairman J. C. Merwin and president L. B. McKnight and other leaders of the then 62-year-old Chain Belt Company established the Chain Belt Foundation Inc. with a starting endowment of $150,000 ($1.725 million in 2023 dollars). 

While the Foundation's name has changed in the ensuing seven decades—to Rexnord Foundation in 1973 and to Zurn Foundation in 2021—one thing has remained the same: the Foundation’s commitment to building hope and a brighter tomorrow has been steadfast. Enduring economic recessions, business transformations, and a global pandemic, the Zurn Foundation has quietly, and without interruption, been a partner and advocate, funding thousands of appeals in Milwaukee and across the country. 


The Foundation is committed to impact giving that doesn’t just benefit the now but endures for the future,” said Patty Whaley, Zurn Foundation Board Member and retired general counsel of Rexnord Corporation. 

Today, the Zurn Foundation provides financial support to organizations working at the ground level to foster sustainability in our communities, built on the three pillars of Basic Needs, Education and Environment.

We were early and enduring funders to non-profit partners focused on education, like The Next Door FoundationUrban Ecology CenterUnited Community Center and the Milwaukee Public Museum, including being the presenting sponsor of the Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit,” Patty added. “The Zurn Foundation was an early grant maker in the Menomonee Valley revitalization efforts transforming a once vibrant area back to economic and environmental health.

Continuing this legacy of generosity under the leadership of foundation president Todd A. Adams and foundation officer Mark Peterson, the Zurn Foundation matches U.S. associates' personal philanthropy too, up to $5,000 per year per U.S.-based associate, provides every global associate 20 hours of paid volunteer time off per year and has awarded U.S. college scholarships to associates' children for over 45 years.

We’ve provided hundreds of college scholarships to the children of Zurn Elkay associates helping to educate two generations—and counting—of teachers, tradespeople, scientists, artists, physicians and so much more," Patty said. "While these are just a few highlights of the last 70 years, I couldn’t be prouder of the work the Foundation has already done and I’m excited to be part of what is next.

But 1953 only marked the formalization of the company's philanthropic efforts.

Thirty-seven years earlier, in 1916, Chain Belt Company founder C. W. LeValley and his wife, Helen, established a deferred gift with the newly formed Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Interest from a $100,000 trust ($2.8 million today) was paid to the LeValleys' heirs until 100 years later, when the funds were granted to the foundation for unrestricted use in perpetuity, as the Christopher Warren LeValley and Helen Pitkin Spencer LeValley Foundation Fund

The Fund supports the Greater Milwaukee Foundation's vision to help the area become a vibrant, economically thriving region comprised of welcoming and inclusive communities that provide opportunity, prosperity and a high quality of life for all,” Patty noted, “but the legacy behind the Fund is alive and well in the philanthropic spirit in Zurn Elkay and its associates.