Both Fred and Barbara Erb were born and raised in the Detroit area, where they raised their four children, developed the family business, and have decided to focus their philanthropic legacy.
The day after receiving his BBA degree from the University of Michigan in 1947, Fred bought into his uncle’s lumber and coal business in Royal Oak, Michigan. At that time, the Erb Lumber Company had one store, seven employees, and revenues approaching $170,000. Fred developed the company into a multi-state enterprise, covering 45 locations with 1,300 employees and generating $280 million in sales, before he sold it in 1993. Ever the savvy entrepreneur, Fred didn’t stop there, but continued to develop multiple successful real estate and investment partnerships.
Fred and Barbara brought the same energy and acumen to their philanthropy. Their first major gift, in 1951, was to help establish a camp for troubled children in northern Oakland County, Michigan. Not only did Fred pledge an amount equal to his annual income (at that time $5,000), he and Barbara challenged their business associates, friends and neighbors to give as well, until they had raised gifts totaling more than four times that amount. Motivating and partnering with others became a hallmark of their philanthropy.
In 1996, they made their first major gift to the University of Michigan, with subsequent gifts eventually totaling $20 million, to establish the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. With their concern for a sustainable future, it is not surprising that in 2007 they established a family foundation to institutionalize and perpetuate their philanthropy.
To learn more about the Erb Family and about their philanthropy, please click on the links above.