The Belgian American Educational Foundation began its long history as the daughter of another organization: the Commission for Relief in Belgium. Created in October 1914 by Herbert Hoover. During World War I, the CRB distributed over 2.8 billion dollars worth of necessities of life in Belgium and Northern France. By the end of the war, the Commission had a surplus of some 30 million dollars.

There was never any dispute in Hoover's mind that the balances of the CRB were the property of the Belgian people. The question was solely how to return the funds to the Belgian people. With the approval of the Belgian government, Herbert Hoover proposed to apply these funds to "the extension of education in Belgium among all classes of the population". This decision led eventually to the payment of over 100 million Belgian francs to each of four universities and two technical schools. It would also be used to create the Fondation Universitaire / Universitaire Stichting and the CRB Educational Foundation in the United States, later to be renamed Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF).

During its first quarter century of existence, the BAEF rapidly developed exchange programs between the United States and Belgium. The year 1920 already saw a boat of 24 Belgian fellows traveling to the United States and a maiden voyage of 22 Americans to Belgium--all receiving full coverage of enrollment and of travel expenses, as well as a generous stipend. By the start of World War II, nearly a quarter of the teaching or research staff of the four Belgian Universities had studied or traveled in the USA with the support of the Foundation. Among the BAEF fellows were future Nobel prize recipients Corneille Heymans and Albert Claude, and future ministers Gaston Eyskens, Jean-Charles Snoy et d'Oppuers, and Pierre Wigny.

During the same period, the BAEF established or helped establish other foundations through major capital gifts. It first transferred funds to the Fondation Universitaire / Universitaire Stichting, and invested large sums for land and buildings at the University of Brussels (now the Solbosch campus) and for rebuilding the library at the University of Louvain-Leuven. In 1925, it even distributed the major portion of its assets to these two universities, thus creating the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Brussels and the Hoover Foundation for the Development of the University of Leuven-Louvain.

Meanwhile in 1924, it had also made a first grant to the Cercle des Alumni / Kring der Alumni, open to those who had received support from either the BAEF or the Fondation Universitaire / Universitaire Stichting. In 1929, it contributed largely to the projected Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, and in 1932, it was the principal donor to establish the Francqui Foundation. Finally, in 1938, it contributed half the capital needed to erect at Stanford University the Hoover Library, now known as the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace.

The second quarter century of the BAEF was characterized by financial trouble. Because of defaulting bonds during the Depression, and because of the impact of World War II, the financial means of the BAEF had been reduced to 1.7 million dollars. The BAEF nevertheless resumed a full exchange program immediately after the War, invited the Rectors of the four Belgian Universities to visit together important universities in the United States, and assisted the organization of the Fulbright Program.

The third quarter century of the Foundation (1971-1995) would be a radical departure from the past at two vital levels, that of governance and that of financing. Under the terms of the new constitution, members elect a Board of Directors, including at least six Belgians, and have their say in approving large gifts. The first BAEF President under the new terms, Léon Fraikin, launched the first fundraising campaign of the Foundation and thus managed to have income exceed expenses again for the first time since 30 years.

Emile L. Boulpaep, who succeeded Léon Fraikin as BAEF President in 1977 and still leads the Foundation today, multiplied the BAEF's total assets eightfold over the next 20 years.

Source: Belgian American Educational Foundation