Nathan Cummings was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1896. He moved from impoverished beginnings to great success by hard work, entrepreneurial genius and a willingness to take risks.
In 1939, he purchased the C.D. Kenny Company of Baltimore, a small wholesale distributor of canned foods, coffee, tea, and spices. That was the beginning of the international company that was known as the Sara Lee Corporation. For three decades, he personally guided the growth of the company. He retired from active management in 1968 to pursue philanthropic interests.
In his later years, he was a perceptive art collector and a generous philanthropist, with a strong interest in medicine and science. He inherited a spirit of sharing and community from his immigrant parents, and transmitted that spirit to his children and grandchildren, who contribute their time and energy to the Foundation. He died in 1985, leaving the majority of his estate to this Foundation.
As an entrepreneur and business man, Nathan Cummings believed in innovation and risk-taking and was inspired by a quote below by the English writer Samuel Johnson.
"Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome."
The Cummings Family
The children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Nathan Cummings inherited his spirit of sharing and community. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue his philanthropic work by contributing their time and energy to the foundation that bears his name.