We believe that strong communities depend on people having productive and meaningful lives. When people are given the tools they need to thrive, they develop a strong sense of self-worth, are motivated to succeed and empowered to improve their own lives and the lives of others. The Austin Family Foundation envisions creating such pathways for success through philanthropy.
The Austin Family Foundation is committed to enhancing lives by providing opportunities for citizens of Newberg and Yamhill County through programs that aid and inspire individuals to reach their full potential.
“I asked my dad why he took milk down to the neighbor, and he said, ‘We have more milk than we can drink, so we can share it with our neighbor who has no cow.’” – Ken Austin
The Austin Family Foundation is proud to continue a legacy of philanthropy and community partnership. The roots of our story begin with the couple who started it all, Ken and Joan Austin.
Although both were born in the mid-west, home was destined to be Oregon. Ken was born in Montana in 1931. His great-grandfather, Joshua Eberhard, first settled in the Willamette Valley in 1859, the same year Oregon was granted statehood. Originally from Ohio, Eberhard had come north from San Francisco chasing opportunity.
The same was true for Joan Zemke and her family. They arrived in Oregon from Minnesota in 1941 after a storm destroyed their wheat crops. Joan was 10 years old when her family, all seven of them, jammed into a four-door sedan and travelled west to what her aunt had reported was the “land of plenty.”
In 1934, Ken and his parents returned to the family farm in Newberg. Ken helped to milk cows and clear the land. He also learned to tinker and developed a love of the mechanics required to keep equipment running on the farm.
Ken’s curiosity led him to tear apart engines and build them back up, to weld, mold and invent. It took him to Oregon State, and then into the Air Force. But not before he and Joan met and married.
Joan had been a year ahead of Ken in school, the result of her interest in education. Back in Minnesota, as a four-year-old, she’d accompanied her older sister to kindergarten and done so well they’d asked her to stay. Money was tight, and college wasn’t an option, so Joan went to work for an insurance company in Portland. There, she found a mentor who taught her every part of the business. She was sent to the Newberg office to gain management experience when she and Ken began dating.
Joan’s understanding of how to run an office and make the numbers work meshed perfectly with Ken’s inventiveness, and his sense of independence made starting their own business the logical decision. Joan’s talents made it possible. “By joining forces,” she said, “we were able to share our enthusiasm, motivations, and our ambitions.”
Austin Dental Equipment Company–A-dec–was born in 1964 with a mission to make dentistry a little easier, and dentists’ offices work a little better. Ken and Joan set up shop in a Quonset hut in downtown Newberg in 1965. What started out as a mom and pop shop grew into a worldwide business revolutionizing dentistry.
In 2007, Ken and Joan’s son-in-law, Scott Parrish, was named president of A-dec. Today, the company is Yamhill County’s largest employer and a global industry leader in dental equipment.
As A-dec continues to grow and improve dentistry worldwide, the company is still rooted in the original principles of what made A-dec special, “The A-dec Way”. These fifteen principles that Ken and Joan wrote in 1975 are at the heart of how A-dec does business and treats their employees.
What proved true for business proved true for philanthropy as well. The Austin Family Foundation was Joan’s dream, a way to give back to a place that had given her family so much. She died in 2013 before it could be established. But in 2015 her husband Ken funded the foundation and worked together with the next generation of Austin and Parrish families to create a shared vision and make it a reality. In just a few short years, the foundation has contributed nearly three million dollars in grants to local organizations.
Joan had a vision of her own that would help bring economic prosperity to Oregon Wine Country. This dream came true in 2009 as she transformed a Newberg hillside into one of America’s finest resorts – The Allison Inn & Spa. With a renowned restaurant, world class spa, event space and 85 luxury rooms, the Allison has had a profound impact on the wine industry and tourism throughout Yamhill County. Her son, Ken, and his wife Celia continue to steward this gem as they had with Joan.
On behalf of the Austin and Parrish families and the Austin Family Foundation, we welcome you to join us in striving to enhance the lives of everyone in Newberg and Yamhill County. May the spirit with which Ken and Joan built A-dec, the joy with which they approached giving, and their dedication to our community endure and grow for generations to come.
“You build a business to give, not to get.” – Ken Austin
To help guide our philanthropic efforts, we commissioned the Oregon Community Foundation to prepare a first-of-its-kind Yamhill County Needs and Opportunity Assessment. Through existing data, key stakeholder interviews and an online community survey, the assessment addresses a variety of questions, including:
- What are the community’s current strengths and challenges?
- How does the community address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion?
- Where are there gaps in nonprofit services?
- What organizations and partnerships are addressing local needs?
The assessment provided important baseline information that illuminated community strengths, needs, and context to inform future funding. Based on this information, the Austin Family Foundation has identified two primary areas of opportunity: education and health and human services.
Education: Opportunity for all
Everyone deserves the same chance to learn, to grow, and to develop the skills to help turn inspiration into a brighter future.
“We know that life must be continuous learning in order to keep up with changes in technology and the changes of jobs in the future,” Joan Austin once said. Ken and Joan were able to grow A-dec because of teachers, mentors, friends and family. The Austin Family Foundation supports early education, K-12 and career technical education programs in Newberg and throughout Yamhill County.
Addiction, Mental Health and Homelessness: Helping those in need
The ability for everyone in Newberg and Yamhill County to reach their full potential requires us to confront the challenges many face.
In the 1988, Ken and Joan were instrumental in bringing one of the most respected and successful addiction treatment facilities to the Pacific Northwest – Hazelden Springbrook. Today, the Austin Family Foundation continues to support programs and initiatives that address the barriers to overcoming addiction, access to mental healthcare, and homelessness.