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Monday, March 12, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle schools receive $1 million gift

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle's public schools have received another boost from the business community, this time a $1 million gift from Kirkland businessman Kirby Cramer and his wife, Ellery.

The couple is following in the footsteps of Kirby Cramer's longtime business partner, Don Nielsen, who along with his wife, Melissa, gave the schools $1 million shortly before the death of then-Superintendent John Stanford.

Nielsen is president of the Seattle School Board.

The Cramers' gift brings the John H. Stanford Endowment Fund to $4 million. The fund, intended to create an ongoing private funding source for Seattle schools, was founded with a portion of the Nielsens' gift in November 1998.

The Alliance for Education, which raises money for the schools and manages the Stanford Endowment, has set a $25 million target for the fund.

Kirby Cramer said the gift was inspired by the Nielsens' commitment to the schools and by their admiration for Stanford. "Ellery and I wanted to vote with our checkbook and support what Don's doing," he said.

"Although we didn't know John Stanford as well, I get tears in my eyes when I see him speak on that videotape. What an impact he had. I think it's incredibly important that that vision not die but thrive."

Cramer said he hopes the Cramer and Nielsen gifts and a $2 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last fall will prompt other residents to support Seattle public schools.

Cramer, chairman of Northwestern Trust and Investors Advisory, was a business partner of Nielsen for 17 years. The two saved Hazleton from near-bankruptcy and built it into a $165 million-per-year firm, the world's largest contractor in biomedical and chemical research.

The Cramers created two scholarship funds at the University of Washington before making a $1 million gift three years ago endowing the chair of the UW School of Business.

The Stanford Endowment made its second round of $10,000 grants to 11 elementary schools in support of their supplemental reading programs Friday. Universal mastery of reading was at the heart of Stanford's education reforms.

The endowment fund may also make grants in support of the sciences, math, humanities, technology and the arts; training for teachers and principals; athletic programs; and learning outside school walls. Prospective donors to the endowment may call the Alliance for Education at 206-343-0449.

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