Carl and Marilynn Thoma

NET WORTH: Unknown


FUNDING AREAS: Arts (Visual and Performing), Higher Education 

OVERVIEW: Carl Thoma and his wife Marilynn move philanthropy through the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, a low-profile vehicle whose grantmaking includes arts and educational institutions. In 2014, the family established the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation to distinguish their support for visual art. Yearly, the Thoma Family Foundation and the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation together make grants in the total amount of $5 million.

BACKGROUND: Carl Thoma received a BS from Oklahoma State University and an MBA from Stanford University. He began his career at First Chicago Equity Group, where he helped build one of the largest private equity firms in the country. In 1980, Thoma cofounded Golder Thoma & Co. and is a managing partner of Thoma Bravo. 


ARTS: Thoma and Marilynn are avid art collectors and began collecting in the late 1970s. Through their family foundation, the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation, established in 1986, they've supported Chicago Humanities Festival, Art Institute of Chicago (Marilynn sits on the board), Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (Marilynn sits on the board), Lyric Opera of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and Santa Fe Opera.

In 2014, the couple founded the Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation to distinguish their initiatives in, and support of, visual art. The foundation explains, "we lend and exhibit artworks from our collection and support innovative individuals and pivotal initiatives in the arts." The Thoma Foundation collection includes over 1,000 works of art in four broad fields: Digital and Electronic Art, Japanese Bamboo, Post War Painting & Sculpture, and Spanish Colonial. The Foundation has exhibition spaces in Santa Fe and Chicago dedicated to sharing works from the foundation’s collection.

Unlike the couple's family foundation, their art foundation has a strong web presence and accepts proposals. Grantees include Blanton Museum of Art (where a grant supported an Endowed Associate Curator of Spanish Colonial Art);  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Nevada Museum of Art.The foundation also funds an Arts Writing Award in Digital Art and a Research Fellowship in Twentieth Century Abstract Painting

HIGHER EDUCATION: The couple support their mutual undergraduate and graduate alma maters, Oklahoma State University and Stanford University.

OTHER: Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation grantees include American Enterprise Institute and Illinois Policy Institute. The couple has also supported health outfit Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab). They've supported Kenilworth Union Church and Monetary of Christ in the Desert. 

LOOKING FORWARD: With the young Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation, expect Thoma and Marilynn to deepen their arts philanthropy. Their huge arts collection could figure in giving. 


Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation
875 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611


Thoma Foundation

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