The History of Rippel Foundation

70 Years of Creating Equitable Well-Being

Client: Rippel Foundation
Industry: Non-Profit
Video Type: Healthcare
Messaging Type: Interview-Based

About This Video Project

Rippel Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded 70 years ago to address pressing health issues of its time. This video takes a look at the legacy of the Rippel Foundation, from its founders Fannie and Julius Rippel in 1850, to the Flexner Report of 1911, to the present day. Learn about the impact of the Rippel Foundation as they continue to strive for equitable well-being for everyone, and to partner with others to make the country better.


The Rippel Foundation was founded 70 years ago to try to address the pressing health issues of its time. That legacy has continued through our entire history. We continue to explore what is creating suffering and struggling among the population, what is preventing people from thriving and experiencing well-being, and what are the pressing issues of our day that have an opportunity for us to impact them and create equitable well-being for everyone. It’s exciting to think about what was the life of the people who set up the foundation and how that set us on the path to where we are today. So you’ve got to go back to 1850. That’s when Fannie Traphagen was born. Fannie ultimately married Julius Ripple, became Fannie Rippel, and hence the Fannie Rippel Foundation. 1850 was really the first report of the hazards of smoking, the hazards of alcohol, the hazards of bad food on the health of the population, and that we have been fighting these issues for a long, long, long time. In 1868, Julius S. Rippel was born, and he really left school at the age of 13. He set out on his own to make a living, to support the family, and eventually at the age of 22, set up his own investment banking firm. Somewhere along the lines there, he met Fannie. Fannie had been a Sunday school teacher and got married sometime thereafter. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, at a time when Newark was just a little port city. We know that Fannie, throughout her life, was interested in health issues, particularly the health of women. A very influential report called the Flexner Report was released in 1911. This was a report funded by several foundations that basically restructured American medicine. It basically said, look, there’s a model at Johns Hopkins, it’s based on science, everything else is quackery, and that everything in America should be based on the science and everything should look like Johns Hopkins. As a result, chiropractics were placed out of business, anything that we would now call alternative medicine, many black medical schools were closed, just the whole treatment and structure of the medical system was under change. But you can see that there was a real change in public health. We know that Julius had made a fortune by the time the Depression hit, and that he lost all of his money, and at the age of 65 set out to make his fortune again, and he did a pretty good job. Looking at the progress in medicine that was made during the time, you’ve got penicillin, we’ve got the polio vaccine coming, medicine is starting to be industrialized. The hope in the 1950s that it would be possible to find the cure for cancer, find the cure for heart disease, equip hospitals with the latest equipment, take care of people when they’re sick, was probably really a high energy value at that point in the world that he was very much part of, and I think the chance to use his money to maybe spark that forward could have been very compelling. Fannie died in 43. Julius lived for another seven years, dying in 1950. At the time of his death, his will contained the instructions for creating the foundation, what the purpose of the foundation was, who would be the founding trustees, and the guidance for how the foundation would go forward. And it was substantial. This was the bulk of his will. I think he was clearly one of the wealthier people in New Jersey. This is an amazing gift. They did not need to do this. This foundation was founded to help organizations that performed research or helped in the development for the elimination of heart disease, of cancer, for the support of women and the elderly, and to support hospitals and their creation and equipment for them, and the development of those organizations for the benefit of the people around them. The executor of the will was Julius A. Ripple. Julius A. Ripple was a nephew of Fannie and Julius S. It was Julius’s brother, Albert’s son, and Julius A. Ripple then took this on as his life’s passion. He was 53 at the time. He spent a lot of that time really trying to understand what the purpose of the foundation was. And he consulted with many of the leaders in the field, really took this on in a very serious way, and came to the conclusion that foundations are about taking risks, but that the purpose of a foundation is to do what government can’t do, to do what business can’t do, to pilot new solutions, to push the edges of creativity, to explore things that can’t be otherwise explored. There was a lot of funding of facilities. You walk into a hospital and there’s the Fannie Ripple Lab. The hospital association, the cafeteria is named, or the conference room is named after Fannie Ripple. So there’s a lot of legacy just around the community that comes from those early days of grant making. But I think what was most important of what Julius A.’s contribution to Ripple and to our future is, is really his thinking and his writing. He started to talk about his observations in the health system as we get into the 60s, how hospitals are created for profit, not for people. And how do we really think about that? He started to explore the importance of mental health as a health issue. And it was really in light of that, that he began focusing on how do you keep people healthy as opposed to treating them when they’re sick, because it was simply not a viable solution. Again, very important insights that 50 years ago, we’re still having those same conversations today. The problems that established us as a foundation were the most pressing problems of that time. We are still aimed at addressing the pressing problems of our day. They’ve just changed. We were given the freedom and the expectation that we would evolve. And we needed to continue to stay current and relevant, to bring creative solutions, to be innovative, to talk to people from all kinds of disciplines. We can follow the breadcrumbs of where the problems are leading us and bring creative solutions to bear no matter where that might be found. There’s nothing that we can do that is really more important than trying to do our part to make the lives of folks be more equitable and be better. We can work with regions and with organizations to improve conditions of wellness, to improve health care, to make it more equitable around the country. And that is really important. And it was important to our benefactor. My hope for the future for the field is that we will be an integral part of seeing this broader movement to thrive together take hold and get lift, and that we won’t be having to convince people that investments in things that we might need to wait five or 10 years to see the full impact of make sense, that it is the only choice, the most wise choice with the investments that are entrusted to us. Nobody can do this on their own. People certainly can’t do it on our own. But what we can do is use the power of the people that we have, the power of what’s been done before to partner with others to make the country better, to make a more equitable society in terms of health and wellness.

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