The Louise Taft Semple Foundation was founded in 1941 by Louise Taft and her husband, William T. Semple, Ph.D. Louise was part of a well-known Cincinnati family with a long history of generosity and public service. Many iconic Cincinnati institutions – including the Taft Museum, the Cincinnati Times-Star and ArtsWave (formerly the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts and the Fine Arts Fund) – were established by the Taft family.
Today, The Louise Taft Semple Foundation continues to honor its namesake and her family by providing philanthropic support for artistic, cultural, educational, civic and social service organizations as a means of enhancing the quality of life in Greater Cincinnati.
A Legacy of Giving
Louise Taft Semple, born in 1879, was the daughter of Anna Sinton Taft and Charles Phelps Taft. Charles was the son of Alphonso Taft who served as the U.S. Secretary of War in 1876 and as U.S. Attorney General from 1876 to 1877. His half-brother was William Howard Taft, U.S. president from 1909-1913. Charles continued the family tradition of government service and was elected to the U.S. Congress. He served for two years before returning to Cincinnati to work in the newspaper business. Beginning in 1879, he amassed several newspapers which were published for more than 75 years as the Cincinnati Times-Star. Charles’ nephew, Hulbert Taft, Sr., served as publisher, associate editor and reporter for the paper. In 1958, the Cincinnati Times-Star was purchased by the E.W. Scripps Company and published under the name The Cincinnati Post and Times-Star until December 1974, when it became simply The Cincinnati Post.
Louise’s mother, Anna Sinton, used the significant fortune left to her by her father, David Sinton, for a variety of philanthropic purposes during her lifetime. Recognizing the need for affordable and safe housing for single women who were coming to Cincinnati to work, she and Charles donated land and helped provide funding to erect a five-story building to accommodate 120 women. The Anna Louise Inn, named for the Taft’s daughter, opened on Memorial Day, 1909. Since its opening, it has been owned and operated by Cincinnati Union Bethel and continues to provide safe, affordable housing for women.
The Taft’s generosity extended far beyond their deaths. In 1927, Anna and Charles bequeathed their residence and their private collection of 690 works of art to the City of Cincinnati. It opened as the Taft Museum of Art in 1932. Also in 1927, the Tafts established a permanent endowment for the arts, initially known as the Cincinnati Institute of Fine Arts, then as the Fine Arts Fund and currently as ArtsWave. When her husband died in 1929, Anna bequeathed $5 million to the University of Cincinnati to establish the Charles Phelps Taft Memorial Fund to endow the study and teaching of the Humanities at U.C. This fund financed, among other things, the archaeological dig that uncovered ancient Troy.
Continuing the Legacy
Anna and Charles had two sons, David Sinton and Charles Howard, and two daughters, Jane and Anna Louise. Jane married Albert S. Ingalls, a railroad man. Anna Louise, known as Louise to avoid being confused with her mother, married William T. Semple in 1917. The couple continued the family tradition of contributing their time and treasure to the city they loved. Louise served as president of the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation and was a major patron of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Art Museum. William T. Semple served as the department head for the University of Cincinnati Classics Department from 1920 to 1959. With the help of his wife, he embarked on a lifelong mission to create, through the investment of their own personal fortune, the finest Classics department in North America. When Louise died in 1961, she continued her support for the department by leaving a large dedicated endowment in honor of her husband. At the time, it was the largest gift in the history of the university. Louise also left significant bequests to the Taft Museum, The Cincinnati Art Museum, Christ Church Cathedral, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
The Semples had one son, Charles Taft, who died as a young boy, thus ending this branch of the Taft family tree. The Semple’s generosity, however, continues to enrich the community today. Since 1941, the Louise Taft Semple Foundation has honored its founders’ legacy by donating millions of dollars to organizations that enhance the quality of life in Cincinnati for all of its citizens.