Our History

The Kemper Foundation fulfills its mission through the Kemper Scholars Program.

Our curriculum amplifies academic studies through coaching, internships and scholarships for students chosen by a rigorous selection process from universities across the U.S.

As we look back and celebrate, we are inspired by the more than two thousand men and women who harnessed the lessons learned as Kemper Scholars to pursue meaningful careers in the insurance industry and other fields.

“We must have sufficient liberality of thought to face the uncomfortable fact that we must hire better people than we are.”

James S. Kemper, Sr | Founder of The James S. Kemper Foundation

Former President & CEO of the Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Corporation

James S. Kemper Foundation Leaders


  • Joseph Lacher (2016-Present)
  • Donald Southwell (2014-2016)
  • David Mathis (1995-2014)
  • Gerald Maatman (1992-1995)
  • Joseph Luecke (1986-1992)
  • James Kemper Jr. (1969-1986)
  • James Kemper (1942-1969)


  • Jerry Fuller (2016-Present)
  • Ryan LaHurd (2006-2016)
  • Thomas Hellie (1999-2006)
  • James Connor (1991-1999)
  • John Barcroft (1980-1991)
  • Bruce Coggin (1977-1980)
  • Charles Webster (1962-1977)
  • Hiram Kennicott (1942-1962) 

The Beginning

In 1912, James S. Kemper, Sr. founded Lumbermens Mutual Casualty in Chicago, Illinois with an emphasis on workers compensation insurance. In the following decades, Mr. Kemper expanded the company’s insurance portfolio and revenues, eventually changing the firm’s trademark name to the Kemper Insurance Companies.

Mr. Kemper is well known as a pioneer in the innovation of automobile insurance and the introduction of mutual insurance to the American property casualty insurance market.

He established The James S. Kemper Foundation in 1942 as a way to give back to the community and create awareness of the insurance industry as a challenging and exciting career option.

James S. Kemper Sr founded and served as a chairman on the board until 1969 when he passed the reins to his son, James S. Kemper, Jr.

“The best way to cultivate the bigness of mind needed for success in business is through real-world application of what is learned through academic study. It enlarges understanding and deepens insight. It contributes to mental power in situations that cannot be predicted in detail in books.”


“We must have sufficient liberality of thought to face the uncomfortable fact that we must hire better people than we are.”

James S. Kemper, Sr | Founder of The James S. Kemper Foundation

Former President & CEO of the Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Corporation

The Kemper Scholars Program proved to be an excellent training ground for future Lumbermens employees, including David B. Mathis who was a Kemper Scholar from 1956 to 1960 while attending Lake Forest College.

After graduation, Mathis started his career at Lumbermens as a field agent based in San Francisco eventually taking over as sales manager in 1969. He later opened offices in Europe and ascended to president of Lumbermens’ international operations. After a stint as executive vice president of Lumbermens, he took on the chief executive officer position.

“The Kemper Scholars Program provides students the immeasurable advantage of learning something about themselves and the work habits and ethics needed to succeed in the workplace before they embark on their careers.”

David B. Mathis | Kemper Scholar

Former Chair and CEO of Lumchermans Mutual Casualty Company and former Chair of the James S. Kemper Foundation

The Foundation…is unique and probably couldn’t be repeated

David B. Mathis shares his experiences as both a Kemper Scholar and as part of Lumbermens and Kemper Corporation.


1960s to 1980s

During this three-decade period, the Kemper Scholars Program proactively evolved to address the changing business climate.

In the 1960s, men largely dominated the insurance industry. The Kemper Scholars Program recognized the shift in gender roles and selected a growing number of women for the program. James S. Kemper, Jr. joined the board of the Foundation in 1969 when he became chairman and CEO of Lumbermens, serving with the same passion as his father.

When founding President Hiram Kennicott died in 1962, Charles W. Webster took over the role until his death in 1977. Webster emphasized the uniqueness of the Kemper Scholar Program to provide scholars mentoring that “guides, directs and shapes the life of a young person.”

In the 1980s, the Foundation reorganized the Kemper Scholars Program to provide more individualized attention and challenging internships to a smaller group of students. The Foundation also sought to ensure the scholars understood ethics of the workplace.

In 1989, the first Kemper Scholars Conference offered scholars a chance to meet each other, build relationships and gain experience presenting to a group of colleagues, a tradition that continues to the present.

Kemper Scholars Neal Gagen (left) and Mai Bui (middle) share a laugh with former Kemper Scholar and Kemper commercial property underwriting manager and now retired President and Chief Operating Officer of CNA Bob Lindemann.

“It is most difficult to place a value upon the contribution that the Kemper Scholarships has made in the personal development and the life of an individual scholar. Experience has taught us that the practical knowledge gained through our summer–on-the-job-training and the close working relationship with leaders of the Kemper Companies have played an important, constructive and unforgettable part in their lives.”eed in the workplace before they embark on their careers.”


1990s to Present

In the 1990s, The James S. Kemper Foundation reaffirmed its commitment to working with promising students to provide guided mentorship and internships to develop business leaders.

Dr. Thomas Hellie, president for the Foundation from 1999 to 2006, noted that the Kemper Scholars Program is “…the first of its kind and even now is one of the most prestigious and generous in the nation.”

After extensive strategic planning, the Foundation board determined that the Kemper Scholars Program would have the greatest impact by partnering with a select portfolio of colleges and universities. The program welcomed students at partner schools who had an interest in business leadership to apply to the program and expanded internship opportunities to both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

The current Kemper Scholar Program provides selected students three years of real-world experience through a combination of career coaching, internships and scholarships. The goal is to help Kemper Scholars develop the practical and professional skills they need to successfully launch their business careers … just as James S. Kemper planned.

Kemper Scholars gain valuable experience through internships, career coaching and interactions with each other.

“The Kemper Scholars Program is one of the nation’s premier talent identification and leadership development programs. We will continue to build on its legacy of shaping the next generation of business leaders.”


Looking Forward

Insurance is an exciting industry that offers a variety of interesting career challenges. The James S. Kemper Foundation helps promising students explore their options, including careers in the insurance industry—professions that are stable, rewarding and limitless.

By continuing to anticipate business trends, the Kemper Scholars Program helps scholars learn the skills that will give them an advantage when they enter the workforce after completing their degrees. The Kemper Scholars Program will continue to evolve over time to meet both the needs of the Kemper Scholars and the businesses that will eventually employ them.

The Kemper Scholars Program will continue to evolve over time to meet both the needs of the Kemper Scholars and the businesses that will eventually employ them.

The Kemper Scholars class of 2017, pictured here at the annual summer conference with Foundation President Jerry Fuller.

“I’m a big fan of the fundamental principles on which the James S. Kemper Foundation was founded. The Kemper Scholars Program recognizes that insurance is an important industry that fuels every other part of the economy. Finding, recognizing and energizing good talent is a positive endeavor for our business and the world of commerce.”


Chairman of The James S. Kemper Foundation


We will be accepting applications beginning Friday, August 21, 2020.