Kendrick B. Melrose Family Foundation donates $500,000 in an endowment to support GCSAA’s First Green

The foundation’s latest gift supports the association’s STEM education program, which reimagines golf courses as outdoor classrooms.


First Green program
Students take a dive into the applied science and math of golf course management during a First Green field trip. Photo by David Phipps

The Kendrick B. Melrose Family Foundation has donated $500,000 to the Environmental Institute for Golf (EIFG), the philanthropic organization of GCSAA. The endowment will support First Green, which provides hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education at golf courses.

The Melrose Family Foundation is supported by Ken Melrose, former CEO and chairman of The Toro Co. Melrose retired as CEO in 2005 and from the chairman position in 2006. That same year, he formed Leading by Serving LLC, a company whose mission is to advance the principles of servant leadership in business organizations.

First Green came under the GCSAA family of programs in 2018, but it was founded in 1997 in the Pacific Northwest. First Green is the only STEM education and environmental outreach program that employs golf courses as learning labs. Each First Green field trip averages 75 students who learn about golf and the environment. For most students, these outdoor classrooms represent their first exposure to a golf course. In the year since GCSAA took over leadership of First Green, more than 2,000 students from Maryland to Hawaii have participated in First Green field trips.

“As the child of an educator, I am pleased to have the opportunity to support a program that provides hands-on education while introducing students to the many benefits of a golf course,” Ken Melrose says. “Under GCSAA’s direction, First Green has expanded nationally and is reaching more students than ever before. STEM education is vital in preparing students for the future, and I am proud to be a part of that.”

Melrose’s mother, Dorothy Lumley Melrose, taught math, English and public speaking at Memorial Junior High School in Orlando, Fla., in the 1940s and 1950s. In 2014, Melrose honored his mother’s memory with the creation of the Dorothy Lumley Melrose Center for Technology, Innovation and Creativity at the Orlando Public Library.

This is the third large gift to GCSAA and the EIFG from the Melrose Family Foundation. In 2012, the foundation gave $1 million to endow the Melrose Leadership Academy, which focuses on professional development for golf course superintendents through opportunities to attend the annual Golf Industry Show. Since it began, 113 superintendents have experienced the Melrose Leadership Academy. In February, a second $1 million gift was announced to create the Melrose Equipment Management Endowment. The endowment will have four focus areas: continuing education, a certificate program, growing membership in GCSAA, and the Melrose Equipment Management Experience, which will bring GCSAA-member equipment managers to the Golf Industry Show for leadership and education sessions.

“GCSAA is truly blessed to have Ken Melrose as a good friend,” says Rhett Evans, GCSAA CEO. “His generous gifts have made a difference in the professional lives of superintendents and equipment managers, and have helped us fulfill our mission of serving our members and advancing the profession. Now, he is helping us achieve the third part of our mission, which is enhancing the enjoyment, growth and vitality of the game of golf. Countless schoolchildren around the country will be the beneficiaries of Ken’s latest philanthropic act of kindness.”

Through his work with Leading by Serving, Melrose continues to engage in philanthropic endeavors by giving to community programs and other organizations. Melrose is a native of Orlando and earned a double major in mathematics and electrical engineering from Princeton in 1962. He received his master’s degree from the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and later an MBA from the University of Chicago.

Get more information on GCSAA’s First Green.