November 22, 2015

Austin H. Kiplinger ’39 Remembered as ‘Legendary’ Cornellian

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Austin H. Kiplinger ’39, personal finance publisher and chair emeritus of the Cornell Board of Trustees, died Friday of cancer. He was 97.

Kiplinger, a noted philanthropist and benefactor of the University, became a trustee in 1960 and led the board from 1984 to 1989. He died at a hospice in Rockville, Maryland, of cancer that had metastasized to his brain, his son Knight Kiplinger ’69 said.

Born on Sept. 19, 1918, Kiplinger was the son of prominent journalist W.M. Kiplinger, who founded the financial publishing company Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc. in 1920.

In an undated file photo from The Sun, Austin Kiplinger '39 speaks at the Johnson Museum.

In an undated file photo from The Sun, Austin Kiplinger ’39 speaks at the Johnson Museum.

As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Kiplinger was a member of the Telluride House, Glee Club and Student Council, among other activities. It was also at Cornell that he began his career in journalism, working as a campus stringer for The Ithaca Journal.

After graduating from Cornell, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Following the war, Kiplinger and his father founded the first publication devoted to personal finance for American families, which is now known as Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Kiplinger worked for several television stations in Chicago in the 1950s and was even offered a role at NBC News, but ultimately returned to his family’s business, according to The Associated Press.

Kiplinger led the publishing company after his father’s death in 1967 and helmed the company through the 1990s until he retired. The Kiplinger company was worth more than $100 million in 2000 when sons Todd and Knight Kiplinger took the reins, according to The Washington Post.

Perhaps one of the most notable moments during Kiplinger’s time as chair of Cornell’s Board of Trustees in the mid-1980s was his defense of the University’s decision to not divest from apartheid South Africa.

“There’s no evidence in the world, as far as I know, that shows any benefit [to South Africa’s blacks] from the sale of the stock,” he said of Cornell’s millions of dollars of investments to The New York Times.

Following Kiplinger’s death, Cornellians remembered him for his commitment and passion for the University, sense of humor and kindness.

“He was best known for his exuberance, his positive attitude, his interest in people from every walk of life,” his son Knight said to The Associated Press. “He talked as easily with a carpenter or the janitor in the building as he did with presidents and senators.”

Corey Ryan Earle ’07, associate director of student and young alumni programs, said that when he thinks of Kiplinger, he is reminded of his warm smile and friendliness toward “everyone he encountered.”

“He had a deep love for Cornell, and you could sense it when speaking with him,” Earle said. “There are few alumni who have had such an enduring connection with the University, and he had an impact as a leader, volunteer and generous philanthropist.”

Robert S. Harrison ’76, current chair of the Board of Trustees, said Kiplinger was a “legendary” Cornellian who “gave back to the University” in a multitude of ways.

“I first met Kip in 1975, when I was a newly-elected student trustee and he was a longstanding, well-respected member of the board,” he said. “Kip welcomed the involvement of student trustees and went out of his way to engage with us and view us as resources.”

Harrison also said Kiplinger’s “grace, good humor, wit and oratorical skills were second to none.”

“He has served as a role model and hero for me and generations of trustees who have attempted to follow in his footsteps as stewards of Cornell University,” Harrison said.

Kiplinger is survived by his son Knight, six grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and his companion, Bonnie Barker Nicholson. His wife, Mary Louise Cobb Kiplinger, died in 2007. Their son, Todd, died the following year.

Tyler Alicea and Paulina Glass contributed reporting to this story.

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