About 500 people paid their respects to the family of James E. Stowers Jr. in a celebration of his life Monday at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City.
Stowers, who was 90 when he died last week, established the institute with his wife, Virginia, from their fortune created by American Century Investments, which he started in 1958.
Visitors were able to see a short video about Stowers, including old film of him swimming, and signed guest books flanked by life-size cut outs of Jim and Virginia’s wedding photos — one with her holding the bouquet and the other with the couple cutting the cake. They’d been made for the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.
Planners, anticipating the large turnout, arranged for light refreshments as well-wishers waited. Groups were ushered from the auditorium with the video, to the refreshments room and finally the receiving line that led to the institute’s library. There, Virginia Stowers, surrounded by family, accepted the visitors.
Among those who visited Monday morning were Henry Bloch, co-founder of H Block Inc., and Tom McDonnell, head of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Also there was Irving Kuraner, the lawyer who in the 1970s helped Stowers overturn a Securities and Exchange Commission judge’s order that barred him briefly from the fund industry.
“Everything was on the line,” Stowers had said in 1998. “If not for Irving Kuraner, we wouldn’t be here.”
American Century, the mutual fund group originally called Twentieth Century, ran buses from its nearby headquarters to allow employees to attend throughout the scheduled three-hour event without overwhelming the line.
Bill Koehler was one of many former American Century employees to attend. He recalled riding in an elevator with Jim Stowers and a client, and the client asked Stowers what made American Century special.
“He said: ‘It’s the people. We have the best people,’
” said Koehler, now chief executive officer of Tower Wealth Managers with Country Club Bank.
“I’m one of the people,” said Tracy Smith, who happened by and had worked with Koehler at American Century. “It was fun working with smart, creative people, building something that would last forever.”