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Kern, Herbert Arthur

(1890-1963). A committed theosophist who applied theosophical ideals to life, Herbert Kern was born on a central Minnesota farm, studied chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and after graduating with degrees in both fields, engaged in research work in fuels, lubricants and detergents, holding a number of patents as well in water treatment. He studied Masonry and passed the 32nd degree. Kern was always keenly interested in the fundamental questions about life and found instant compatibility when he came into contact with theosophy in the early 1920’s.

It is quite probable that Kern’s theosophical studies inspired the innovative concepts that he applied in the industrial firm he founded, which always emphasized a sensitivity to all the people involved as well as the environment. Kern defined four groups as equal partners in business: the owners or stockholders; the employees including the management; the suppliers; and of course the customers. No one of these could be mistreated, he suggested, without disadvantaging the others. Starting in the early 1930’s he initiated generous bonus systems, profit sharing stock plans and educational assistance programs for all employees, long before such were generally accepted in industry.

In his latter years he served as an advisor to successive Theosophical Society Boards of Directors, was a founding trustee of the Theosophical Investment Trust (USA), and served on the Board of Directors of Krotona Institute of Theosophy.

In 1959 Kern established a Trust named The Kern Foundation with the object of commencing grants for theosophical purposes after his death. This was amended in 1961 to provide more generalized objectives for aiding in the dissemination of the theosophical philosophy. The Trust endowment has grown over the years and has been used by the Foundation to support many valuable ventures, noteworthy being the enhancement of the professionalism and support for the National Center of the U.S. Section staff, The Quest magazine, the Theosophical Publishing House/Quest Books, and the Krotona Institute’s School of Theosophy, as well as support for universities and graduate students pursuing studies in theosophical literature.


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