Happy 100th Birthday, Mrs. Nippert

Cincy Magazine doesn't celebrate every 100th birthday in its readership area.

But Louise Nippert . . . well, she's different.

In the course of her 100 years, she and her late husband Louis "” "Gus" to his friends "” have lavished hundreds of millions of dollars on Greater Cincinnati institutions: schools, hospitals, music organizations, research centers, environmental groups and more. Some of it has made headlines, like the $85 million fund Mrs. Nippert set up in 2009 to assure the future of live classical music at, among others, the city's orchestra, opera and ballet company.

It was a staggering bit of philanthropy. But even more

staggering is that the vast majority of the Nipperts' giving has been done anonymously.


"She and Mr. Nippert were very clear that they did what they did because they thought it would benefit the community," says Carter Randolph, executive vice president of the Nipperts' Greenacres Foundation, who first went to work for the Nipperts at the age of 11, weeding the gardens around their home. He's 55 now. "Mr. Nippert always said that if you wanted credit for doing something, then you could take out an ad."

That's an old-fashioned approach to philanthropy. These days, most people want their names on a building. Or a road. Or in the title of an annual event.

But to the Nipperts, doing good for their hometown was one of the reasons they were put on earth.

"There was always a strategy to what they were doing," says Patricia Beggs, general director and CEO of the Cincinnati Opera. "And that was to make this the finest city that it can be." Beggs says that while the opera has been a recipient of the Nipperts' generosity many times, the public has almost never been aware of it.

"If you go back through our programs you will see many, many productions underwritten by an anonymous donor. I'm not saying who that was . . ." says Beggs, letting her silence say what her words could not.

"She has never felt a need for fanfare about her gifts. Her payback has been in seeing what they have done for the community."


Not that Louise Nippert is a particularly shy or reclusive person. There is a memorable photo of her standing on the field in her Cincinnati Reds jacket singing the National Anthem before a Reds game. In the photo, she exudes the confidence of a power diva, befitting a woman who, in her earlier years, gave many vocal recitals and performed as a soloist in 1957 with the CSO in Mahler's Symphony No. 4.

A fourth-generation Cincinnatian, she is a dedicated Reds fan, attending nearly every home game. She also has a vested interest in the team. Back in the days of the Big Red Machine, she and her husband were majority owners of the team. She remains a minority owner today.

So now, in marking the Aug. 27 anniversary of her 100th birthday, many of the organizations that have benefitted from her support have decided it is time to offer a public thanks.

Greenacres, the arts and environmental center that she and her husband founded in Indian Hill in 1988, planned a series of performances. The Cincinnati Opera and ballet had August performances. May Festival Chorus pays tribute Sept. 1.

The grand finale is Sept. 8, when the CSO joins the three other groups.

Don't rush for your phone, though. All of the tickets "” free and limited to 350 per show "” were reserved online the day the performances were announced in July.

Mrs. Nippert will definitely be there for all of the performances, Randolph says. She won't be the star, of course. That's not her way.

But thanks to the generosity she and Gus bestowed on their hometown, she'll be the centerpiece "” anonymous, perhaps "” for decades to come.