The Bullitt Foundation was founded in 1952 by Dorothy Bullitt, a prominent Seattle businesswoman and philanthropist. Dorothy’s family set an example of civic and cultural leadership by helping to found many of the city’s most significant institutions, including Children’s Hospital, the Seattle Symphony, and Cornish School of the Arts.
Alexander Scott Bullitt, a Southern attorney, won Dorothy’s heart with his charm, intellect, and progressive leanings. They married in 1918, and had three children – Stimson, Priscilla, and Harriet.
At the age of 40, in the midst of the Great Depression and devastated by the loss of her husband, father, and brother in one year, Dorothy assumed a new role as manager of the family’s real estate holdings. She had an instinctive business sense and was a careful, but gutsy, entrepreneur.
By the 1940’s, she turned her attention and resources to broadcasting. With meticulous research and an ability to summon the right people at the right time, she turned an unprofitable radio venture into a critically acclaimed success. Then, already well into her 50’s, Dorothy Bullitt took the riskiest, and ultimately the most profitable, step of her career. She brought television to Seattle.
Through a combination of intelligence, courage, and determination, she built the first television channel in Seattle and won an affiliation with NBC. Over the years, KING Broadcasting Co. won virtually every prize in broadcast journalism and Mrs. Bullitt expanded her broadcasting empire into other Northwest markets.
Meanwhile, the foundation was also maturing. In 1983, the Bullitt Foundation hired Emory Bundy, former Director of Public Affairs for KING Broadcasting, to staff the Foundation. It slowly began to focus its funding on the environment, children’s issues, and peace.
Shortly after Dorothy Bullitt died in 1989, KING Broadcasting was sold and the Bullitt Foundation’s share of her estate greatly increased the endowment of the small foundation she had started 37 years earlier. The office was moved from KING Broadcasting to the carriage house at the Stimson-Green Mansion, where Dorothy Stimson had spent some of her girlhood years.
In 1992, the Bullitt Foundation hired internationally recognized conservationist Denis Hayes as President. Soon thereafter, it began to broaden the Board beyond family members and decided to devote the Foundation’s new wealth exclusively to protecting and restoring the environment of the Pacific Northwest.
Under Hayes’s leadership, with the expertise of Program Officers Steven Whitney, Neelima Shah, and Rashad Morris, and the direction of a diverse and engaged Board of Trustees, the Foundation has carved out a vitally important mission for itself.
Today, the Bullitt Foundation is widely respected for the vision, integrity, courage, and strategic sensibility it has demonstrated in helping to direct the Pacific Northwest toward a sustainable future.