Joe Albertson was born in Yukon, Oklahoma on October 17, 1906. His full name was Joseph Albert Albertson and he was one of four sons born to Rhoda and Earl Albertson. The family moved to Caldwell, Idaho in 1909, where Joe grew up and went through school.
After graduating from Caldwell High School in 1925, Joe studied business for two years at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. In 1927, while still at the college, he began his career in the grocery industry as a clerk at a local Safeway store. In 1930 Joe married his college classmate Kathryn McCurry, of Boise. They had one daughter, Barbara Jean Newman.
Joe quickly moved through the ranks during his career with Safeway until he was supervising more than a dozen stores. But he was not satisfied and wanted to start his own store — one that he could build to his own specifications and manage his own way. With $5,000 of the money he and Kathryn had saved, and with $7,500 borrowed from his wife’s aunt Birdie, Joe formed a partnership with L.S. Skaggs, a former Safeway Division Manager, and Tom Cuthbert, Mr. Skaggs’ accountant. Joe’s first store was founded in 1939 on three simple principles – quality, good value, and excellent service. He is credited as being one of the pioneers of the complete one-stop, self-service supermarket concept.
Joe opened his second and third Albertson’s stores in Nampa and Caldwell, Idaho in 1940. During the years of World War II, when food was being rationed, he filled the empty shelves with health and beauty products, general household goods and other non-food items.
His reputation for generosity and community involvement grew during those war years. His stores promoted war bonds and sponsored scrap drives that collected aluminum, steel, fats and paper for recycling.
During the 1950’s and 60’s, Albertson’s became a familiar name to shoppers throughout the west.
Joe’s generosity continued throughout the years. The College of Idaho received many generous donations from Joe and Kathryn and for 16 years proudly called itself Albertson College of Idaho. In 2007 with a donation of $50M from the Foundation the College reverted back to its original name, the College of Idaho, with hopes of promoting fundraising efforts from other sources.
Perhaps the most obvious gift to the citizens of Idaho is the 41-acre Kathryn Albertson Park with its winding walkways, wildflowers, trees and ponds.
In 1966, Joe and Kathryn established the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation as a way to administer their own charitable giving. They focused their giving primarily on education, which was important to Joe and Kathryn because neither were able to finish college during the Great Depression. Since then, the Foundation has given more than $240 million to Idaho’s communities and education systems. The Foundation continues to give to charities, primarily in areas where Joe and Kathryn lived or worked in Idaho.
Joe passed away in 1993.
It has been written that Joe did the common thing uncommonly well. He accumulated a great wealth of knowledge and formulas for success. He found the fulfillment that comes from setting monumental goals and achieving them. His life was filled with enjoyment of the rare but simple pleasures — fishing a mountain stream, going hunting with friends, and enjoying the company of his family.
She was born Kathryn McCurry, in Boise, Idaho on August 27, 1908, the daughter of Neunan and Ida Mae McCurry. Kathryn went through the Boise school system. After graduation, she enrolled at the College of Idaho, Caldwell, where, in chemistry class, she met Joe Albertson.
The two fell in love. They married on New Years Day in 1930, and their lasting partnership was marked by great love, unwavering support, and respect for hard work.
Together, they started the grocery store chain that bears their name. Kathryn was there for Joe and for their daughter, Barbara, as the store they created grew to be one of the largest supermarket chains in America.
Kathryn and Joe believed strongly that once you make it, you need to give back. Together, they discretely began to give to a number of charitable causes, often to help students who wanted to further their education. In 1966, they created the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to help administer their personal giving.
When Joe passed away in 1993, Kathryn, her family, the company, and the community suffered a tremendous loss, but Kathryn persevered. Kathryn remained active on the Albertson Corporation Board of Directors for several more years, with the same resolute spirit she and Joe shared. In 1998, the company honored her by designating her Albertson’s first Director Emerita, an honorary lifetime position on the Board of Directors.
Kathryn passed away in April 2002.
Friends and family say she was a generous, loving person, known for her uncompromising standards, genuine personality and good will.
Jamie Scott MacMillan
Jamie Scott MacMillan is executive director of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and is the great granddaughter of Joe and Kathryn Albertson.
Jamie has been a leader in local and statewide philanthropy in Idaho. She served as the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation’s community grants coordinator and as a member and Treasurer of the Foundation’s board of directors for over 10 years before being named executive director in December, 2008. She has been active in the non-profit community as a past member of the Boise Art Museum (BAM), as a board member for the Special Olympics World Winter Games, and currently serves on the Bogus Basin Recreation Board and the Bishop Kelly Foundation Board.
Jamie is a Boise native, wife, and mother of four. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Idaho and brings her personal, professional, and educational experience, her entrepreneurial spirit, and a passion for improving education in Idaho to her leadership role at the Foundation. To read here blog, visit the Director’s Corner.