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Endowing Idaho's youth

Endowing Idaho's youth

In 2000, Boise philanthropist Gladys E. Langroise was responsible for creating ICF's largest endowed fund ever — a $15 million bequest that benefits health, education and child welfare. The gift was so significant that when then ICF President and CEO Alice Hennessey picked up the check and deposited it at the bank she was so excited she forgot to get a receipt.

Today, the Gladys E. Langroise Fund in ICF has distributed more than $6.8 million. Mrs. Langroise specified that 50 percent of the fund's annual distribution should go to The College of Idaho in Caldwell, the Boise Philharmonic, St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Mont., and the Warm Springs Counseling Center in Boise. Of the remaining 50 percent, 25 percent goes to ICF's Regional Competitive Grant Cycles and 25 percent is decided by the fund's advisors, Dean Buffington and Roger Martell, who became acquainted with Gladys when her husband Bill Langroise died and they were called to help settle his considerable estate.

"She was a very bright lady," said Martell, who was her CPA for 20 years. "She had great business acumen. Nobody could tell her what to do with her investments unless it made sense to her."

Buffington assisted Gladys with her investments and agrees with Martell. "She was detail oriented and did not hesitate to let you know if she thought you were trying to run generalities by her," he recalled. "In my relationship with her, I found she would carefully consider the information I shared with her, make a decision on the spot and remain firm with that decision. Then she was ready to move on to the next issue."

Gladys was born in 1900 in Oklahoma, but grew up in the upscale Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco and was educated at a finishing school where she was instructed in proper hostessing and protocol. She was described as an attractive woman just over five feet tall, with fair skin, dark hair and dark eyes. Despite her refined background and petite size, she was an accomplished wood carver.

Her first husband was Jack Dempsey, a widower with three children who was 21 years her senior. Dempsey served as a Congressman from New Mexico and then as governor, making Gladys the First Lady of New Mexico from 1943-46.

The Dempseys built a home in Santa Fe when Jack became governor, which included doors intricately carved by Gladys that featured Spanish and Indian designs and colors. Gladys also carved several of the heavy, handsome chairs in the home.

Gladys was friendly with Robert Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi, the "fathers of the atom bomb" and leaders of the Manhattan Project in New Mexico. She was present at the detonation of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo Air Base in 1945. She also toured Roswell, N.M., in 1947 following the alleged crash of an extra-terrestrial aircraft and it occupants.

After leaving the governor's office, Jack regained his congressional seat and the couple moved back to Washington, D.C. where they occasionally socialized with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Harry S. Truman — with whom Gladys would take long walks in the mornings — and Bill Langroise, a Boise attorney who visited Washington to argue cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

After Jack passed away in 1958, Gladys returned to Santa Fe and began her philanthropic endeavors. She was a founder of the Santa Fe Opera Guild and became interested in educational opportunities for Native American children.

Bill Langroise became a widower during this time and he and Gladys reconnected. They were married in 1966, on the condition that Bill would bring her breakfast in bed every morning. Bill passed away in 1980, but Gladys stayed in Idaho in her beautiful 5,400-square foot Tudor home on Warm Springs Boulevard, which she later donated to the Boise State University Foundation.

Bill and Gladys were passionate supporters of the arts, and in 1994 she donated $6 million to the College of Idaho for the Gladys and William Langroise Center for the Arts and an additional $2 million to endow the Langroise Trio as artists-in-residence at the college.

Gladys returned to Santa Fe every summer for its internationally acclaimed opera season, and one year asked Martell to escort her because Queen Elizabeth II was going to attend a performance and a big formal ball was going to be hosted in the queen's honor.

"I don't remember why, but for some reason I declined her gracious invitation," Martell said. "That is one of the regrets of my life."

Buffington and Martell said that while they knew Gladys well, they didn't know how she developed her particular philanthropic support of children and education. She never had children of her own.

"Mrs. Langroise never really discussed why she had the passion for youth and education but her feelings were strong," said Buffington, who noted her passion for the Warm Springs Counseling Center was because it was near her Boise home and had once been an orphanage.

"She was not shy. She had a great sense of humor and she enjoyed conversation, but I never learned how she became interested in those areas," Martell said. Gladys Langroise passed away in 2000 at the age of 99.


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