Leo Adler was a self-made millionaire. He earned his fortune in the magazine business, and as one of the top distributors in the western United States, he was probably better known in Chicago and New York publishing circles than he was closer to home. But in one small area of Oregon, his name is well known and his impact has been substantial. The newest episode of the OREGON EXPERIENCE series, “Leo Adler,” is a tale of ambition and achievement. It’s the story of one ordinary man’s relationship with the small town that he loved. Tune in to the stations of Oregon Public Broadcasting on Monday, February 18 at 9pm.

From high school on, his business card always read: “Leo Adler, Magazine Specialist.” He was, in fact, a phenomenon in the national publishing world. In Baker City, he was a high-profile local character, a prominent philanthropist and the most energetic and effective booster the town has ever known. Local people called him “Mr. Baker,” but it wasn’t until after his death in 1993 did they learn how successful he had been and what a champion of Baker City he really was.

Leo Adler had left nearly his entire fortune — a large fortune — to the people of Baker City and nearby communities. Initially endowed with his gift of $22 million, the Leo Adler Foundation annually administers generous tuition grants to hundreds of young people and aggressively doles out a diverse range of community-improvement grants. What makes this foundation distinctive is that these grants go almost exclusively to the people of Baker County — population 18,000.

The endowment itself continues to grow, already surpassing $30 million assuring that Leo Adler’s appreciation for his hometown will enhance education, social services and community building for many decades to come.

OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting new history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust.

About OPB

OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.