Henry J. Leir was known for charitable endeavors as the founder and chairman of three foundations- The Henry J. and Ema D. Leir Foundation, Inc. of Luxembourg, The Ridgefield Foundations, Inc. and The Leir Foundation, Inc.
He was born in Germany in the year 1900. In 1933, he and wife, Erna, took refuge in Luxembourg. There he wrote a book entitled, La Grande Compagnie de
Colonisation.In the book he wrote about his visions for a new world where tyranny would be defeated; he further anticipated the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, renewal projects in underdeveloped countries and the unification of world economies.
Foreseeing the coming war, Henry Leir predicted the invasion of Luxembourg, and so he and his wife came to the United States in 1938. Mr. Leir then built a
veritable empire in the minerals and metals industry. Over the years, he earned a worldwide reputation as an international industrialist, visionary, philanthropist, and
patron of the arts.
The Leirs never forgot the brave, humanitarian country of Luxembourg. They therefore promoted its business and culture throughout their lives. Today, Leir Foundation, in Luxembourg, a Leir Luxembourg Program at Clark University and annual cultural events in Luxembourg sponsored by the Leir Foundations all attest to their gratitude.
The wealth of the Leirs has been devoted primarily to those charitable purposes having the widest benefit to humankind. Following their precedent, Leir Chairs have been endowed at universities and hospitals in medical research. The Chairs were created for humanitarian studies on relief of poverty, famine, conflict resolution and international trade and development, along with a Chair in Foreign Languages and Cultures.
There are also Leir fellowships at hospitals and museums, and Leir Scholars Abroad in programs and
universities. Major medical research programs have been established in their names, and Weir halls and galleries grace several museums.At the heart of their charity is the wish to promote understanding. Thus, the Leir Foundation support an outstanding series of conferences on religious understanding sponsored by the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University. These conferences reflect the moral concepts which motivated the Leirs throughout their lives.
In the last years of his life, Henry Leir and his wife planned charitable uses of their 37-acre property in Ridgefield,
Connecticut. At age 97 he planned and oversaw the construction of the Leir House, focusing on programs for disadvantaged children of all races and religions, and for scientific and educational conferences. The first session at Leir House commenced two weeks after his death and the series still continues to flourish to this day as he had hoped.
The Leir Foundations are committed to maintaining Mr. Leir’s vision and philanthropy.