The Steele Foundation is named for its co-founder and benefactor, Horace Steele, a man of humble origins who built a fortune in the petroleum and trucking industries.
On the advice of attorney, Dan Cracchiolo, Horace Steele saw a chance to make a lasting impact in the lives of Arizonans by establishing a charitable foundation that would support worthy causes in perpetuity. In 1985, after Horace Steele’s death, the Foundation was endowed and Dan Cracchiolo was appointed president.
Today, signs of the Steele Foundation’s commitment to Arizona’s well-being can be found across the state—from the University of Arizona’s Steele Pediatric Research Center to the endowed chairs at both of Arizona’s flagship universities; from Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park to the Arizona Science Center’s Steele Foundation Gallery. Although the name of Steele is familiar to Arizonans everywhere, few know the fascinating life story of the person behind the philanthropy.
Horace W. Steele was born in Phoenix, Arizona on March 12, 1896 to Daniel and Maude Steele. His parents were among the first Mormon settlers, who came to Arizona by covered wagon. In the early 1900s, Horace grew up helping out with his father’s dairy and mining gold near the Cave Creek area. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, Horace married his sweetheart, Ethel McKellips.
During the late 1920s, Horace became a special agent in what is now known as the FBI. Following his years in government, Horace spent his time building successful businesses across the Southwest. A man of extraordinary talents and interest, Steele had a great insight into the unpredictable worlds of finance and petroleum.
In the 1930s, he founded the Texas Independent Oil Company, a firm specializing in retail fuel sales. The retail fuel business soon evolved into oil drilling, and the wells drilled by the Steele Petroleum Company are still producing oil today.
By the late 1960s, Steele expanded his ventures into trucking and freight lines. Valley Copperstate, another company he founded, is today one of the largest truck lines in the United States.
When he wasn’t working, Horace found time to feed his personal passion for big game hunting. His love for the sport took him clear across the world, and the massive trophies that filled his personal office became almost too numerous to count.
While Horace had no children of his own, his foundation has helped raise hundreds of thousands of children throughout Arizona, and will continue to do so for decades to come.