Else Kröner and the work she did are inseparable from the work done by the foundation. "If I don’t do it, then who will?" expresses in a nutshell Else Kröner’s commitment to social responsibility.
Her business commitments were always driven by the desire to create something for people. Fresenius’ decades of success put Else Kröner in a position to help her fellow human beings. So in 1983, she founded the non-profit Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung to promote medical research and support people in need. Else Kröner was now in a position to accomplish two goals: preserve a lifetime of achievements and create a vehicle to promote research and help people in accordance with her principles. At the same time, she honoured her adopted father Dr Eduard Fresenius, to whom she owed so much, by adding his name to the foundation.
The non-profit Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung was authorised by the regional supervisory authority in Darmstadt on 19 May 1983. Initially capitalised with only 50,000 German marks, the foundation’s ability to provide funding was very limited. Therefore, at the outset, Else and Hans Kröner only backed smaller research projects brought to them by their large circle of acquaintances.
After Else Kröner’s unexpected death on 5 June 1988, all her assets went to the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung, as stipulated in her will. This propelled the foundation into a new phase, both administratively and financially. The foundation was now headed by Else Kröner’s trustees, Dr h.c. Hans Kröner and Dr Alfred Stiefenhofer with Hans Kröner as the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung’s central figure during its years of consolidation. Until shortly before his death in 2006, he shaped the foundation as his late wife would have.
Caption: The large panorama photo at the top shows Else Kröner around 1960 together with staff. Second from right is Dr Hans Kröner, who ran the company together with Else Fernau - the future Else Kröner. The two married in 1964.
In the early 90s, as the foundation’s financial means grew with the Fresenius Group’s commercial success, the foundation began developing comprehensive funding instruments. Initially, medical research awards were funded. This was followed by research grants for physicians and later by innovative funding mechanisms for university medical research, such as the clinician scientist research schools introduced in 2010. Talented physicians with an enthusiastic interest in research were offered the opportunity to immerse themselves in a promising leading-edge medical research project. Today, the foundation can say with pride that some of its grant recipients are among the leading clinician scientists in Germany.
In addition to funding medical research, helping people in need and supporting projects to preserve life were important concerns for Else Kröner. That is why, from the outset, Else Kröner and her husband also made expertise available to less developed countries, and supported humanitarian undertakings both at home and abroad. Here, too, the foundation has accomplished a lot. In just the past five years, medical humanitarian funding was provided for more than 100 projects in more than 40 countries.
Today, the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung is one of the largest foundations in Germany. Since its founding, the EKFS has funded some 1,650 projects with a gross total outlay of more than €300 million.
The foundation marked the 25th anniversary of Else Kröner’s death on 5 June 2013, by awarding the world-renowned immunologist Prof Ruslan Medzhitov a four-million-euro research prize on the occasion of a festive award ceremony. The foundress`life-time achievements were commemorated on this special occasion. In her tribute, Federal Minister for Education and Research Johanna Wanka, emphasised the foundation’s formidable engagement in an area of research that is not just vitally important for Germany but also for the entire world. This commitment marked the start of the Else Kröner Fresenius Preis für Medizinische Forschung to be presented every four years.
In 2008, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of its founding, the EKFS released the publication “Supporting research, Helping people” which provides a comprehensive look back at its history and at the evolution of the work done by the foundation. It was published by the August Dreesbach Verlag in 2008.