A story in the Star Tribune in April 2003 reported that Paul Verret was stepping down after nearly three decades as the head of the St. Paul Foundation.

The story described the role Verret had played in the city: “He has worked behind the scenes on virtually every major civic project undertaken in the St. Paul area.”

The projects influenced by Verret and the St. Paul Foundation include the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Phalen Corridor redevelopment, Como Zoo and Mississippi riverfront developments. He was also instrumental in getting the St. Paul District Energy project in downtown St. Paul created.

“He played a big role in so many projects in St. Paul,” said former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer. “When we did the District Energy project, we were taking over for NSP and it was a complicated $100 million deal. Deputy Mayor Dick Broeker would sit down with Paul. Paul had an analytical skill and they would lay out the plan.”

Verret, of Mendota Heights, died on June 29 after a brief illness. He was 79.

During his time as the head of the St. Paul Foundation, its impact grew tremendously.

In 1975, the first year under his direction, the foundation had $4.2 million in assets and distributed $2.4 million in grants. In 2002, the St. Paul Foundation and its sister Minnesota Foundation managed funds worth $573 million and made more than 4,700 grants worth $28.8 million.

Under Verret’s leadership, the foundation grew from a staff of two to an organization with 60 workers and became one of the Top 10 community foundations in the nation.

Verret estimated the St. Paul and Minnesota Foundations (which merged in 2008) gave out more than $350 million during his tenure.

“He had qualities every philanthropic organization should emulate,” said Latimer. “He husbanded the funds that he managed. He was very tough-minded. Having good intentions with a big heart is all nice. But he wanted to be able to demonstrate an outcome that was rational and measurable.”

After stepping down from the foundation, Verret continued to manage some funds for the foundation and served on the boards of several organizations, including the Minnesota Historical Society, Ramsey County Historical Society, Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and the United Hospital Foundation.

“He wasn’t really retired,” said Latimer. “He was very bright, insightful and tough.”

Beth Burns, president of the Friends of the Library, said she was grateful that her tenure included time with Verret over the past 3½ years. “He has been an important mentor and good friend to me — helping me understand our organization’s history but not tethering me to it,” she said.

Verret was born to Omer and Marie Verret in 1941 in Burlington, Vt. He was raised in Burlington, where his father ran a grocery store.

After high school, he attended St. Michael’s College, a small, private school in nearby Colchester, Vt. He graduated in 1963 cum laude with a degree in philosophy,

He taught in Vermont before joining his future wife, Carolyn, in 1970 in Minnesota. He worked as a lobbyist for two years before joining the Wilder Foundation, where he continued until taking over the St. Paul Foundation.

In addition to his wife, Verret is survived by three sisters — Sally Kalinoski, of Shelburne, Vt., Nancy Kneen of Belvidere, Vt., and Lucienne Miller of Madison, Tenn. Services have been held.