Old Ned

Arizona Historymakers™

Arizona Historical Society

G. Robert Herberger

1904 - 1999

Honored as Historymaker 1999

Volunteer and Philanthropist

Oral History Transcript:

Video directed and written by Chris Wooley. Director of photography: Wayne Dickmann. Produced by the Historical League. Narrated by Pat McMahon. Made possible by a financial grant from Dr. Edward B. Diethrich. MP4 tape conversion made possible by Londen Family of KAZTV.

George Robert Herberger and Katherine “Kax” Kierland Herberger were lifelong philanthropists, whose outstanding gifts lifted the culture of our community to the highest level.

Bob Herberger was born in 1904 in Osakis, Minnesota. He began running errands in his father’s department store when he was twelve years old. A pianist, Bob organized a series of dance bands, which he led throughout high school and college.

Mr. Herberger founded the Herberger/Hart Department Store in Minnesota in 1927 and later established the G.R. Herberger Department Store, with forty stores in ten states. Long before it was popular, Mr. Herberger believed in the abilities of women and promoted many to high-level positions. Kax Herberger was born in Mahnomen, Minnesota in 1912, where her father Dr. Peter Kierland was the physician. She attended the University of Minnesota and then returned to Alexandria, Minnesota. Active in local theatrical productions, she was introduced to her future husband by his sister. After their marriage in 1934, they settled in St. Cloud, raising two sons and a daughter.

When Harold Stassen ran for President, they became involved in national Republican Party politics, thereafter going every four years to the Republican National Convention. Mr. Herberger sold his stock in Herberger Department Stores to top employees, remaining as Chairman of the Board. He then served as CEO of Butler Brothers, a national wholesale chain. Although maintaining a summer home in Alexandria, Minnesota, the Herbergers moved to Phoenix in 1949. Reveling in the western atmosphere, they became involved in local Republican politics. Making innumerable friends, they affiliated with a myriad of organizations. In 1964, when Barry Goldwater ran for the presidency, Bob Herberger was chosen as the financial manager.

Among his many notable civic achievements, Mr. Herberger was a director of the Phoenix Executive Club, the Fiesta Bowl Board, was listed in Who’s Who in America, and was a Junior Achievement Laureate.

Mrs. Herberger’s devotion to the arts is apparent in her volunteer work with the Scottsdale Fine Arts Commission and as founder/trustee of the Scottsdale Artists’ School. A member of the National Society of Arts and Letters, she was the first woman chairman of the board of the Arizona State University Foundation. Kax has many humanitarian causes, including co-founding the Aid of the Adoption of Special Kids in Phoenix. She has served on several national boards including AASK, the Salvation Army and the American Symphony Orchestra League. Among her many awards are the Salvation Army’s Order of Distinguished Auxiliary Service, “Woman of the Year” and the American Jewish Institute of Human Relations Award.

The Herbergers philanthropy has been unparalleled in our community. They endowed the Herberger Theater, the Salvation Army Herberger Center, and the Valley Presbyterian Church. They donated land for thirty-one parks around the Valley. At Arizona State University the Herberger Center for Design Excellence, Herberger Hall and the Kax Herberger Center for Children and the Arts are all a result of their contributions.

Mr. and Mrs. Herberger have both received the Governor’s Arts Award, honorary Doctors of Humane Letter degrees from Arizona State University and honorary doctorates from the American Graduate School of International Management. Their enormous generosity has profoundly blessed Arizona.

Historymakers George Robert and Katherine “Kax” Herberger biography as published in 1998