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Roots of Benevolence

For a community to flourish you must first have benevolence, and the efforts of individuals such as C. Max Stanley and his wife Betty represent the benevolence that have contributed to Muscatine County’s prosperity.


Max Stanley was an international and community leader and citizen, whose vision of Muscatine as an emerging economic beacon clashed at times with a growing consensus around impending deterioration of rural vitality. Max founded Stanley Engineering Company (Stanley Consultants), a global leader in engineering; Home-O-Nized (HNI), a global manufacturer; and the Stanley Foundation (Stanley Center for Peace and Security), which was aimed at international peace.


The latter two were started out of a heart of benevolence.


Max and his brother-in-law, Clem Hansen, worried that soldiers returning to our community at the end of World War II would not have employment. To address this the two of them launched what would later become the manufacturing giant HNI to meet the needs of the homebound soldiers. It was not an easy road or one with clarity of success. This two-person idea led to a local workforce today of over 10,000 individuals.


The Stanley Foundation represents Stanley’s focus on the importance of compassioned outreach and individual commitment to creating solutions. Max was urged at points to move the Stanley Foundation to premiere cities of political and financial influence, but opposed the idea, noting that, “…the Foundation would make a greater impression, especially on foreign diplomats, by being a solo voice from the American Midlands ” Current leadership of Stanley Center for Peace and Security have recently affirmed their commitment to Max’s vision and our community.


During the early 1950s, Muscatine was experiencing an economic shift as the pearl button industry deteriorated. Attempting to counter this erosion, a volunteer industrial commission was developed, and Stanley was named chairman. A local fundraising drive financed a Development Corporation, and letters were sent promoting Muscatine to Fortune 500 companies. One letter piqued the interest of Monsanto and led to a new plant being developed in 1961. Begun with forty employees, the plant has a work force today of 425 full time employees and over 100 contractors on site.


The Muscatine Health Center was another example of how Max and a collective of local community leaders improved the City’s foundational assets. In response to a shortage of doctors, a nonprofit organization was begun that brought physicians into the community; and was the precursor to the Unity Point Clinics, which today offers 400 doctors and health care providers.


Max and Betty Stanley were also life-long supporters of arts and education and recognized the opportunity for advancement within the community. They funded the contemporary Stanley Gallery, as part of the Muscatine Art Center, which today boast renowned, world-class art exhibitions and encourages local artistry.


And, the list goes on…


According to “Max, A Biography of C. Max Stanley,” the Stanley's modeled for their colleagues and neighbors the idea that, “Money earned was not solely for personal gain and certainly not for frivolous extravagances; wealth was to be shared with others or invested in worthy causes.”


What would Muscatine and the lives of our neighbors look like today, if Max, Betty, and all the others that came before us had chosen not to believe in the vitality of our community; erasing the side rails in their minds of what we were and instead envisioning what we could be; taking action through problem-solving and intentionality of design for a future they believed the next generation deserved?


The Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine was built from a collection of those that cast similarities of Max and Betty Stanley; leaders, visionaries, and friends sharing their time, love, action, and small and large gifts to shape the future of our collective community. Call us today to discuss your inspired idea or charitable giving.


This article was originally published in the Muscatine Magazine in February of 2021. Image courtesy of Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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