W. Clement Stone was born in 1902 and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. From an early age, he demonstrated the entrepreneurship, tenacity and optimism that were hallmarks of his life. To help support his family, Mr. Stone began selling newspapers on the street at the age of six. When older youth drove him away from the busiest corners, he moved his sales to restaurants where he eventually won over owners and customers.
As a teenager, Mr. Stone used the sales skills he had developed to sell insurance policies. He was highly successful and eventually started the Combined Insurance Company of America with a modest initial investment of $100. Combined Insurance grew into a multimillion dollar enterprise that became Aon Corporation in the 1980s.
Through these experiences, Mr. Stone developed his lifelong philosophy of Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), which he viewed as the cornerstone of his success. He believed in the power of optimism and that even in adversity lay seeds of success.
W. Clement Stone married his high school sweetheart, Jessie Verna Tarson, in 1923 and they had three children. The Stones were committed, lifelong philanthropists who supported countless civic and community groups as well as political and humanitarian causes. In its early years, the Stone Foundation promoted PMA and distributed grants focused on four key areas: mental health, education, children/youth and religion. It also created and coordinated operating programs such as self-improvement projects in prisons and consulting services in management and positive mental attitude training for nonprofit organizations.
Since the late 1990s, the Foundation has concentrated its grantmaking in three areas: early childhood development, youth development and education (with an emphasis on teacher quality and principal leadership). Today, the Foundation has an asset base of over $80 million and distributes almost $4 million in grants each year primarily in Chicago, Boston, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.
W. Clement Stone died in September 2002 at the age of 100, and Jessie V. Stone passed away in 2004. Their son, Norman Stone, president of the Foundation, and many of their grandchildren and several other family members, who serve as trustees, corporate officers and committee members, sustain the Stones’ family tradition of philanthropy and their steadfast conviction that every individual can make a significant contribution to improving the quality of life for others.