$18M gift to ‘transform’ Cincinnati museums for decades to come

An $18 million gift left by Carol and William “Bill” Eckerle expects to have a transformational impact on three of Cincinnati’s most prominent museums for decades to come.

Bequests of roughly $6 million each will support the endowments of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center and the Taft Museum of Art. The dollars came from personal family funds.

The Eckerles were prominent supporters of the Greater Cincinnati art and culture scene for many years. Bill passed away nearly one year ago, and Carol died in 2020.

In a joint statement, the beneficiaries of the Eckerles’ gift as a “generous demonstration of their belief in access to culture and education for every member of our community.” 

“The Eckerles had the foresight and philanthropic spirit to make planned gifts to the Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati Museum Center and the Taft Museum of Art,” said David Hausrath, a board member and chair of the finance committee for Taft Museum of Art. Hausrath also serves as a board member for the Cincinnati Museum Center and he’s also a member of its investment committee. 

“Museums held a special place in their hearts, and they knew that their gift would leave a lasting legacy on these cultural institutions, providing for long-term financial sustainability that is so crucial for our nonprofits and the communities they serve,” he added.

The Eckerles were familiar faces at the Cincinnati Art Museum for many years, according to Director Cameron Kitchin. He noted the couple would attend events regularly, leading them to develop a relationship with many of the institution’s staff and supporters.

“I will forever remember the warmth and optimism that surrounded them at every event and occasion at the Cincinnati Art Museum,” said Kitchin, who’s been at the museum since 2014.

“Carol and Bill had an abiding interest in the youth of our region and providing opportunities to build a better Cincinnati from the universal starting point of individual respect,” he added. “Their gift amplifies the power of art to interweave our community and is characteristic of the embrace they felt for our museums.”

Elizabeth Pierce, president and CEO of Cincinnati Museum Center, described Bill and Carol as “lovely people” who she got to know over the course of many years. She noted the Eckerles particularly enjoyed immersing themselves in – and furthering their education about – Cincinnati history, in which they took a great deal of pride.

“Bill and Carol were devoted friends of Cincinnati and our community history,” Pierce added. “They loved exploring the treasures of our collections and seeing history in immersive detail on our Public Landing and at the opening of our Made in Cincinnati exhibit last fall.”

Bill Eckerle met Dr. Rebekah Beaulieu, president and CEO of the Taft Museum, shortly after her arrival in Cincinnati in the fall of 2022. The pair discussed the museum’s plans for future endeavors, Beaulieu recalled. She said they bonded over the “untapped potential to improve the experience of the museum for our community members, within and beyond our walls.” 

“In welcoming the city’s newest face to the table and in this selfless act of philanthropy, Bill’s generosity will continue to be transformational,” Beaulieu added. “The Eckerles believed in continuing a legacy, as well as steadfast commitment to ensure a thriving arts scene and vibrant community. We couldn’t be more grateful to be a part of that work.”

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