James H. Binger, 1916-2004
Jim Binger lived almost all of his life in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, but he was a man of the world.
Born on May 16, 1916, in St. Paul, Mr. Binger was the son of Henry Binger, a physician, and Mrs. Vida Binger. He grew up on St. Paul’s Summit Avenue, down the street from his high school sweetheart, Virginia McKnight. Her parents were William L. McKnight, the man who built the 3M Company into an international powerhouse, and Maude McKnight. Jim Binger and Virginia McKnight were married for more than 62 years and had three children, James (Mac), born in 1941; Cynthia, 1942; and Judith, 1946. (Judith died in 1989.) Virginia died in December 2002.
Mr. Binger graduated from St. Paul Academy in 1934 and from Yale University, where he studied economics, in 1938. He entered law school at the University of Minnesota in 1939 and completed his L.L.B. degree in 1941. His first job out of school was with the law firm that is now Dorsey & Whitney. One of his clients was Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Company, which later became Honeywell, Inc. Mr. Binger joined Honeywell in 1943, rising through the ranks to become president (1961-1965), chairman of the board (1965-1974), and chairman of the executive committee (1974-1978). He led the company through a remarkable expansion into the defense, aerospace, and computer industries.
A Quiet Philanthropist
Mr. Binger’s generosity with his time, money and intellect improved the quality of life in the Twin Cities.
In 1974, when his father-in-law asked Virginia Binger to run The McKnight Foundation, Mr. Binger joined McKnight’s board of directors, along with the couple’s children. He headed the investment committee and helped establish the fiscal policies that remain in place today, including managing the Foundation’s investment portfolio to keep grantmaking capacity ahead of inflation. He extended the Foundation’s grantmaking into brain research, the arts and international grantmaking.
In 1976, Jim and Virginia Binger took over William L. McKnight’s struggling theater enterprise, which included two Broadway theaters. They named their company Jujamcyn, after their children’s names: Judy, James and Cynthia. Theater is a notoriously difficult business, but Jujamcyn thrived, eventually owning five of Broadway’s most successful theaters, with such hits as Angels in America and The Producers.
Mr. Binger also was a director of the Vivian Beaumont Theaters, a member of the executive committee of the League of American Theaters, and a lifetime member of the board of the Guthrie Theater.
A lifelong polo player who competed internationally, Jim Binger purchased land to found the Twin Cities Polo Club in Maple Plain and helped purchase land for the Gulfstream Polo Club in Florida, where the Bingers owned a house in the 1960s. His interest in horses also led to another of his successful businesses. From 1978 to 1987, Mr. Binger owned Tartan Farms Corporation, a Florida company founded by his father-in-law that bred and raced champion thoroughbreds.
Mr. Binger also served as a director of several for-profit and nonprofit boards, including the International Peace Academy, the Atlantic Institute of Foreign Affairs, Northwest Airlines, 3M Company, Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Advisory Committee on Trade Relations. He founded his own investment firm, Tartan Investments, in 1978.
He demonstrated his personal commitment to philanthropy by establishing the Robina Foundation in 2004. Through the work of the Foundation, significant philanthropic investments will be made in pursuit of innovation in critical social issues.
On November 3, 2004, James H. Binger died at age 88. His vision, sense of adventure and generosity, and commitment to creative endeavors will endure.
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