About Us & Activities

History of the ESU

The English-Speaking Union of the United States was created to fulfill a mission.  It was formally organized in the United States in 1920 and arose from the conviction of its founder, Sir Evelyn Wrench and a group of like-minded American and British friends, that maintenance of the close personal and national ties forged during World War I was necessary for the preservation of peace. He imagined the ESU as an inclusive organization "founded in no narrow attitude of race pride, in no spirit of hostility to any people."  Its educational mission would be carried out by a host of activities allowing for personal contact between peoples at every level.

The ESU, Kansas City Branch
A Brief History…

The Kansas City Branch of the English-Speaking Union was organized in 1920, the same year the National organization was formed.  Colonel Marvin H. Gates was the first president of the Branch, which had an original membership of about 20.  Some degree of inertia took place because the Branch disappeared from the Kansas City scene.  History does not record the exact reasons but the war years played a significant role in declining membership levels in many social and not-for-profit organizations around the country.

Then, in 1954, Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, had a luncheon to reactivate the organization.  George L. Gordon was elected as the new president and William T. Kemper, treasurer.  Kemper was the patriarch of the Missouri Kemper family who developed both Commerce Bancshares and United Missouri Bank, today known as UMB Bank, to become a major banking family in the Midwest.  Also assisting with the reactivation was R. Bryson Jones, Mrs. Gervice Gates Ripley and Mrs. Charles S. Demaree.

Over the years, the Branch has had many notable leaders and members.  Its roster includes leaders in all areas of Kansas City's life.  One notable Kansas City ESU Life Member was Miller Nichols, son of J.C. Nichols, who developed the first suburban shopping center in the United States, the Country Club Plaza.  Miller Nichols became President of the J.C. Nichols Co. in 1950 and was a major Kansas City civic leader and philanthropist.  Another prominent ESU Life Member of the Kansas City Branch was Charles H. Price II.  Price, born into the Kansas City-based Price Candy Company family, was the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain during the Reagan years from 1983-89.  Subsequently, he became Chairman of the Board of Mercantile Bank of Kansas City and Mercantile Bank of Kansas.  He held this position until retiring in 1996.

Our Activities

TLab: Travel and Learn Abroad

The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition

Event Archives