Agnes Ober

Portrait of Agnes Ober

The Mardag Foundation was established in 1969 as the Ober Charitable Trust, but the heart of its mission was formed with the birth of Agnes Dagmar Maas Elmer in 1887.

The loss of her mother at age six and other unfortunate circumstances resulted in a childhood marked by poverty and loss for Agnes. Her fortunes eventually changed, and her marriage to Edgar Ober, a well-known Saint Paul businessman, led to an adulthood of great wealth.

A risky $5,000 investment in a struggling Two Harbors company, then known as Minnesota Mining, eventually paid off for Edgar. Certainly, he did not anticipate that the company would become the creator of Post-It® Notes and Scotch Tape®, known today as 3M.

Agnes Dagmar Maas Elmer portrait seated with children

Agnes understood that few people face the depth of poverty she endured as a child, and that experience was never far from her memory no matter how great her wealth in later years. She and her husband, Edgar, were deeply involved in serving the community. Agnes was an active community volunteer and smart businesswoman who continued to invest in 3M over the years.

Agnes died in 1969. Her will instructed that the Foundation benefit religious, charitable, scientific, literary and educational efforts within Minnesota. She cared deeply about the welfare of children and seniors, and that commitment continues today.

In its early days, the Foundation supported projects ranging from education to cultural heritage and the arts to social services to the environment. In 1992, in order to improve operating efficiencies, the Trust dissolved and became the Mardag Foundation. Since then, it has sharpened its focus on those issues of deepest concern to Agnes: the welfare of low-income children and older adults, the arts and humanities, and our community.

Today, Agnes’ legacy lives on, thanks to her vision and compassion, and the ongoing commitment of her family. "For over four decades, we have worked to continue the legacy that Grandmother gave to her community and state. We hope that the Foundation will continue to improve the lives of Minnesotans for many years to come," says Tim Ober, grandson and former president of the Foundation.