Leonard Ely

Silicon Valley philanthropist Leonard Ely dies at 87

Local philanthropist and Palo Alto High alumnus Leonard Ely died Friday, according to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Ely was 87.

"This comes as a blow to all of us at the community foundation who were inspired by Leonard time and time again," Emmett D. Carson, president of the community foundation, said in a statement. "We saw him last week and he was as engaging as ever.''

Ely was a key member in the formation of the foundation, according to the statement. He oversaw assets of its parent organization -- Community Foundation Silicon Valley -- that grew from $700,000 in 1980 to more than $1 billion in 2006.

The nine-year board member was also part of the merger between Community Foundation Silicon Valley and Peninsula Community Foundation that formed the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the statement said.

Ely graduated from Palo Alto High School and flew as a pilot during World War II. He graduated from Stanford in 1948 and earned an MBA from the university in 1950.

In 1954, Ely started a car dealership in Palo Alto and expanded his business interests for three decades, according to the statement.

He followed the philanthropic example of William Hewlett, co-founder of computer giant Hewlett-Packard, the statement said Ely gave his energy and wealth to many organizations in Palo Alto and other communities, as well as Stanford University, Peninsula Stroke Association and Mid-Peninsula High School. He also volunteered on more than 30 nonprofit boards and was a uniquely successful fundraiser, according to the statement.

In a 1999 interview, Ely called the foundation "a savings account for the community." His work there is "the biggest pleasure I've ever had in my life," he said.

Mercury News archives contributed to this report.




We welcome your questions, comments or suggestions. Please feel free to contact us.

Note: If clicking the above link does not open a contact window, please click here.