|Edward Larocque Tinker, circa 1914.
The Tinker Foundation was created by Edward Larocque Tinker (1881-1968) in 1959 in memory of his wife Frances McKee Tinker, his father Henry Champlin Tinker, and his grandfather Edward Greenfield Tinker. Receiving Ph.D.s in literature from the University of Paris and the University of Madrid, Dr. Tinker had devoted a significant portion of his life to exploring Hispanic culture in Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, and the United States. He was convinced that the freedom and prosperity of the peoples of the Americas depended upon their mutual trust, friendship, and cooperation, and it was in that spirit that the Foundation was established.
Martha Twitchell Muse, the person to whom Dr. Tinker entrusted the development of the Tinker Foundation, was a founding director, served as the Foundation’s first executive director and assumed the position of president upon Dr. Tinker’s death. It was her vision that guided the development of the Tinker Foundation’s programs for the first 40 years of its life.
The first major program initiated by the Foundation was the Tinker Visiting Professorships. A chair was endowed at Columbia University in 1968, followed by endowments at the University of Texas in 1973, the University of Wisconsin in 1975, Stanford University in 1978, and the University of Chicago in 1980.
The Foundation’s initial programmatic foci included demographic education and information, social science research, community development, and higher education. The focus of the Tinker Foundation’s grants program has changed over the years to reflect the needs of Latin Americans. Today the Foundation’s Institutional Grants are focused on democratic governance, education, and sustainable management of natural resources.
One of the Foundation's more successful initiatives is the Tinker Field Research Grants program. First awarded in 1979, these grants are intended to give graduate students their initial research experience in Latin America. To date, more than 8,000 graduate students from 45 universities around the U.S. have participated.
In 2009, the Tinker Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary and updated its institutional grants program to include the areas noted above. At this time, the Tinker Foundation also recognized the leadership of Ms. Muse as she retired from the Foundation by establishing the Muse Prize in Antarctic Policy and Science to recognize up-and-coming experts on Antarctica. The prize, which concluded in 2018, has been awarded to 10 notable researchers who have dedicated their professions and passions to this continent.