Kroc, Joan (c. 1929—)

views updated

Kroc, Joan (c. 1929—)

American philanthropist. Born Joan Dobbins around 1929 in Minnesota; the daughter of a railroad telegrapher and a concert violinist; married and divorced; became third wife of Raymond Kroc (owner of the McDonald's fast-food chain), on March 8, 1969 (died 1984); children: one.

Joan Kroc, the widow of McDonald's CEO Raymond Kroc, made national headlines in 1997 when she was identified as the anonymous donor of $15 million to aid the flood victims of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Although her identity was closely guarded from the time her gift to the flood victims was first announced, reporters traced her through her private jet, which landed three times at the Grand Forks airport. Later, North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan confirmed that Kroc was indeed the donor.

The daughter of a railroad telegrapher and a concert violinist, Kroc grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, but now lives in San Diego. She first met Ray Kroc in St. Paul in 1956. Ray, formerly a Chicago milkshake-machine salesman, had built McDonald's into the world's largest fast-food service company. Thirteen years later, she divorced her first husband, who ironically worked for the McDonald's enterprise, to marry Kroc in March 1969.

Apparently, Joan Kroc's generosity is as expansive as her fortune, which is estimated at over $2 billion, and includes the San Diego Padres baseball team. Since the death of her husband in 1984, she has donated millions to causes ranging from local theater to medical research. In 1996 alone, she reportedly gave $33 million to institutions, including the Betty Ford Center and the University of San Diego. She has also contributed over $100 million to various Ronald McDonald charities and $80 million to the Salvation Army. Kroc, however, shuns publicity and prefers to make her contributions anonymously. "She has a big heart and a sort of Cinderella sense," said family friend Neil Morgan, who is also a columnist at The San Diego Union-Tribune. "She likes to surprise people with the golden slippers, but don't come after her. She's hard to approach. But when she gives, she gives with great spontaneity and generosity."


Covarrubias, Amanda. "Mrs. Kroc is Flood Victims' Benefactor," in The Day [New London, CT]. May 20, 1997.

"Mystery No More: The Grand Forks Angel has a Name: Joan Kroc," in People Weekly. June 2, 1997.

related media:

"Raymond Kroc," on "Biography," Arts and Entertainment Channel, first aired on Wednesday, March 24, 1999.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts