Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Profile: Lou Kerr, the Kerr Foundation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Profile: Lou Kerr, the Kerr Foundation

Article excerpt

"Be careful what you attempt -- you may succeed," quips Oklahoma City philanthropist Lou Kerr.

Kerr's had more than her fair share of successes as president of the Kerr Foundation, a philanthropic organization that provides funding and support to countless worthy causes both locally and nationally. Over the last 15 years, the foundation has given $25 million to charities and projects ranging from the arts and media, to elder care, agriculture and historic preservation.

Committed to creating more opportunities for women, Kerr has also been involved in numerous organizations and initiatives to advance women in business and leadership positions. Nine years ago, she formed a partnership between Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Chapter of the International Women's Forum, which she founded and chairs, to host an annual training and mentoring seminar for future women leaders. She is an appointee to the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women, and is also a member of the Women's Leadership Board at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Last year, Kerr added the Women Presidents Organization to her list when she joined its advisory board and helped form the Oklahoma City chapter of the national nonprofit membership organization, which assists women who lead successful, multimillion-dollar businesses to become even more effective leaders and business owners.

"The WPO provides women with excellent programs that give them a greater awareness and involvement in their communities and internationally," says Kerr. "Their members are unique, and are an inspiration to young women to become entrepreneurs."

Mentoring and education are key to women's advancement in business.

"It's often said that when you educate a woman, you educate a society," says Kerr, a graduate of Oklahoma City University. "What I hope I'm giving back is helping women to be the best they can be. I want to open the door a bit wider, and help women build the confidence so whatever room they walk into, they'll be recognized as having the talent and capabilities to get the job done."

A lifelong resident of Oklahoma City, Kerr held her first sales job at the age of 7, when she and her brothers would pick up stray balls around the golf course near her family's house, clean them up with bleach and then sell them back to the golfers.

"I was just a raggedly little kid, but the golfers bought them from me anyway," Kerr laughs. "That's when I learned about commissions, because I had to share the proceeds with my brothers.

"Growing up, all my friends knew what they wanted to be," she continues. "A nurse, a doctor, a fireman. I was different. I wanted to do and be everything."

In the late 1960s, Kerr honed her business sense and knack for sales by opening her own boutique and dress shop, which she ran successfully for a number of years. …

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