Retired Chairman of the Board of H&R Block, Inc., Henry Bloch received his early education in Kansas City and graduated from Southwest High School. He attended the University of Kansas City (now UMKC), and the University of Michigan, from which he graduated with a degree in mathematics. As a first lieutenant and navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress with the 8th Air Force, U. S. Army Air Corps, he flew 31 combat missions during WWII and was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. In 1946, he and his brother, Richard, formed United Business Company, offering administrative services such as bookkeeping, management assistance, collection and income tax preparation to local Kansas City businessmen. They decided to offer tax preparation to the general public, and in January, 1955, dissolved United Business and formed H&R Block, Inc.
Responding to community needs, Bloch has long been active in civic affairs in Kansas City. He either is or has been a director of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation; The Henry W. and Marion H. Bloch Foundation; the H&R Block Foundation; and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art which he describes as “wonderful and proud to be associated with such a fine institution.”
1. As a businessman and civic leader, you can see that business and art are fundamentally connected, but others might not. How do you explain your relationship primarily with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and how will this relationship look in the next five years?
As one of the founding members of the museum’s Business Council, I realized early on that a successful museum should have partnerships with local business people. Those are the kinds of connections that are vital to its success. I think the relationship between the museum and local business will grow stronger in the next few years, especially with the museum’s director, Julián Zugazagoitia, who believes in fostering relationships outside the Nelson-Atkins.
2. As someone involved in the arts, is there a connection perhaps personally to a specific piece of art that hooked you?
Marion and I began collecting art because we wanted some nice pictures. We had no idea it would become a lifelong passion that we would share. The first piece of art I ever bought was a sketch done by Renoir. It is small and simple but has sentimental value and hooked us on French Impressionist art.
3. What is your best memory associated with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art?
Marion and I were very fortunate to develop a deep friendship and working relationship with Ted Coe, who was the director of the Nelson-Atkins before Marc Wilson. Ted became a trusted advisor on the purchase of many of our artworks. We always consulted him before a purchase.
4. What role will the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art play in Kansas City’s place as the Creative Crossroads?
We are lucky to live in a place with such a vibrant arts community. The Nelson-Atkins is a world-class museum and I think it’s a great starting point for anyone visiting who wants to get the full picture of the history of art in Kansas City.
5. You are a collector of art and have donated many pieces to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. What inspires people like you to make these donations so generously?
Marion and I have enjoyed our Impressionist collection for many years, and we believe that as many people as possible should be able to enjoy it as well. That’s why we have promised it to the Nelson-Atkins. We care very much about the museum and believe it has one of the finest art collections in the world.