Graves will lead new Stanley M. Herzog Foundation in Smithville

Stan Herzog, former chairman and CEO of Herzog Contracting Corp. in St. Joseph, amassed a fortune in the rail and heavy highway construction industry and bequeathed hundreds of millions of dollars for a new charitable foundation dedicated to increasing the quality and availability of Christian education.

The Stanley M. Herzog Foundation broke ground on an 18,000-squarefoot headquarters in Smithville. The foundation’s primary focus will be K12, but it also will invest in Christian educational initiatives for colleges and trade schools, and nonschool educational programs.

Herzog named Kansas City lawyer Todd Graves, a partner at Graves Garrett LLC, as chairman of his foundation. “I first got to know Stanley, Randy and Bill Herzog back in the mid1990s when I ran for Platte County prosecuting attorney,” Graves said. “I went to them and they helped me out. We became friends and stayed friends over the years. Maybe 10 years ago, Stanley was setting up an estate plan and he asked me if I’d be willing to head it up. I said sure, but I never thought it would come to pass. However, Stan died an untimely death.”

Herzog was having dinner in Washington, D.C., in 2018 with Graves, Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), former Missouri Sen. Brad Lager and Herzog Contracting President Al Landes, when he choked on some food. His dinner guests performed the Heimlich maneuver and did chest compressions. He was transported to George Washington University Hospital, where he was put into a medically-induced coma. He died several months later.

Todd Graves will now ensure Herzog’s wishes for the foundation are carried out. He’s joined in management of the foundation by Vice President John Elliot, an executive at Smithville marketing company Inside Information Inc., and Treasurer Kristen Ansley, a Kansas City lawyer who has held several roles related to the Missouri Republican Party.

“We may build some schools, although we won’t try to start brand new schools,” Graves said. “We’ll identify the ones that are very successful and supercharge them. We’ll provide non-school services, support services, consulting services in new media and fundraising, etc. We’ll also include some homeschooling initiatives, especially in light of the coronavirus. We’re looking at helping with pod schooling where several families team together and take children to a central location for programming. We’re also considering some Christian education programs for kids in public schools. We won’t deliver services into public schools, but we could certainly offer programs to those kids outside of a public school setting.”

Graves said the foundation will not just spend the interest earned on the endowment each year. Herzog wanted the endowment spent as well.

“Stanley believed we should spend the entire amount in 15-20 years,” Graves said. “He thought there was no reason to have some kind of ongoing bureaucracy. Stanley was an entrepreneur and he was big on results. He didn’t believe in building a bureaucracy to exist for its own benefit. So we’ll be spending all the money.”