The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.
The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.
Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 15 2007 11:27 PM

The 2006 Slate 60: Pledges

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

Introduction to the Slate 60
Philanthropists who made donations.
Philanthropists who made pledges.
The Slate 60 database.


Warren E. Buffett
Warren E. Buffett

Warren E. Buffett—$43.5 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, the NoVo Foundation, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Buffett, 76, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, an insurance and investment company in Omaha, Neb., pledged 10 million shares of Berkshire Hathaway Class B stock worth approximately $36.1 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. The money will be used to support the foundation's work on global health and improving American schools. Buffett's pledge to the Gates Foundation is the largest in the history of philanthropy. When Buffett announced his pledge in June, the stock shares were worth more than $30 billion. Buffett paid $1.6 billion—5 percent of the total pledge—last August, when the stock was worth $3,206 per share. He said he would continue to pay the foundation 5 percent of the remaining balance of the earmarked shares every year until his death. To continue to receive the donation, Buffett said, several conditions must be met. Starting in 2009, the Gates Foundation is required to spend Buffett's annual payout from the previous year, plus the yearly amount the federal government requires all private foundations to disburse, usually at least 5 percent of the value of a foundation's assets. Buffett also stipulated that either Bill or Melinda Gates must be alive and actively involved in managing the foundation. In addition, Buffett pledged 1 million shares of Class B stock worth $3.6 billion—of which $151.3 million has been paid—to the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, in Omaha. The foundation supports education, medical research, and efforts to curb population growth. It was named for Buffett's first wife, Susan, who was president of the foundation until her death in 2004. Buffett also pledged 350,000 shares of the stock worth $1.3 billion to each one of his three children's foundations: the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, in Decatur, Ill.; the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, in Omaha; and the NoVo Foundation, Peter Buffett's foundation in New York. Each one of the three foundations received $52.9 million last year, and as he did with his pledge to the Gates Foundation, Buffett said he would pay the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the three foundations run by his children 5 percent of the remaining balance of the shares every year until his death. Buffett also pledged $50 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington, where he has served as an adviser since 2002. The money will be used to establish an international nuclear-fuel reserve to provide uranium for energy use to countries that agree not to build nuclear facilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency will manage the reserve. Buffett said he would fulfill the pledge only if $100 million is raised by governments from across the globe for the project within the next two years.

David Rockefeller
David Rockefeller

David Rockefeller—$252 million to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Harvard University, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, International House, the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Historic Hudson Valley. Rockefeller, 91, the retired chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and heir to the Standard Oil Company fortune, pledged $225 million to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York to establish the David Rockefeller Global Development Fund. The development fund will further the foundation's support for projects focused on international finance and trade, fighting poverty, improving access to health care, and supporting sustainable development. Rockefeller and his four brothers set up the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1940 to pool their money and give more effectively to nonprofit groups in which they shared a common interest. Their father, John D. Rockefeller Jr., gave the foundation $57.7 million in 1952 to establish its endowment, which has since grown to more than $800 million. Although he awarded his largest gift to establish a specific fund, Rockefeller has said he prefers to make donations to a group's endowment without too many restrictions. "If you pick a good cause that's run by capable people," he said, "they're apt to know more about what is needed and how it should be used than an outside giver. Therefore it seems to me to give flexibility to good managers at causes is a good idea." To that end, Rockefeller gave five additional gifts, all of which are either unrestricted or will go toward endowment. He pledged $10 million—of which $1 million has been paid—to Harvard University for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, which he helped establish with a $15 million gift in 1995. He gave $5 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, a historic-preservation group in Virginia, and pledged $5 million—of which $2 million has been paid—to International House, a New York postgraduate residential program that seeks to bring together graduate students and interns from all over the world. He also pledged $5 million—of which $1 million has been paid—to the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics in New York; and he pledged $2 million—of which $500,000 has been paid—to Historic Hudson Valley, a historic-preservation group in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Robert W. Wilson—$147.2 million to the World Monuments Fund, Environmental Defense, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, and the American Bird Conservancy. Wilson, 80, a retired hedge-fund manager, pledged $67.5 million—of which $6.8 million has been paid—to the World Monuments Fund in New York for programs to preserve historic landmarks in 13 countries throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Wilson, vice chairman of the group's board of directors, stipulated that the organization must raise at least the amount of his pledge from donors outside the United States to receive all of the money. He promised to donate $1 for every $2 in cases where a foreign government awarded money to the group. He also pledged $40.2 million—of which $3.2 million has been paid—to Environmental Defense in New York for general operating costs and for the group's work in pushing for greater disclosure about the environmental impact of projects in developing countries. Wilson stipulated that the group must attract donations from private foundations and individuals to get the entire gift. In cases where another donor gives less than $1 million, Wilson will match every dollar with 50 cents; if a donor contributes $1 million or more, Wilson will match each dollar given. In addition, he pledged $30 million—of which $3.8 million has been paid—to the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York for the group's conservation projects. He also pledged $8.5 million to the Nature Conservancy, in Arlington, Va. Wilson said the group must match his pledged amount with donations from other philanthropists to get all of the money. He promised to pay 50 cents for every dollar donated between $25,000 and $100,000 from U.S. donors, and he will match every dollar beyond $100,000 as well as any donations from donors outside the United States. Wilson has not yet paid any of his pledged amount to the group. Wilson also gave $1 million to American Bird Conservancy in The Plains, Va., to purchase land housing crucial bird habitats in Central and South America.

Dan Duncan with his wife
Dan Duncan with his wife, Jan

Dan L. Duncan Family—$115 million to the Baylor College of Medicine, the Children's Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Duncan, 74, founder of Enterprise Products Partners, an energy company in Houston, and his family pledged $100 million to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston for the college's cancer center, which will be named for Dan Duncan. He serves on the institution's board of trustees. In addition, the family pledged $10 million to the Children's Learning Institute at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The money will be paid out over 10 years and will be used to establish a clinic to help children with developmental disorders. The Duncan family also pledged $5 million to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to renovate the museum's Paleontology Hall and to purchase paleontology specimens.

Phil Knight
Phil Knight

Philip H. Knight—$105 million to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Knight, 68, a co-founder of Nike in Beaverton, Ore., pledged $105 million to the Stanford University Graduate School of Business in California. The money will be used to help pay for a new campus, to be called the Knight Management Center. Most of the pledge—$100 million—will pay for the construction of eight buildings that will make up the new business-school campus. The remaining $5 million will be used to match gifts from other donors and to help finance faculty salaries. Knight earned a master's degree in business administration from Stanford in 1962. University officials and Knight declined to disclose the financial details of the pledge.

Ronald P. Stanton—$100 million to Yeshiva University. Stanton, 78, chairman of Transammonia—a corporation in New York that trades and ships ammonia and petroleum—pledged $100 million to Yeshiva University to establish the Legacy Fund, an investment fund that provides seed money for university projects. Yeshiva approached Stanton about setting up a fund to pay for scholarships or endowed professorships. Stanton countered with a more flexible plan to do both, and more: The Legacy Fund will provide startup money for Yeshiva projects to ensure that the university can begin work on them as soon as possible. However, once the university secures support from other donors for those projects, it will repay the Legacy Fund, keeping its value constant over time. Stanton did not disclose details about the pledge or the schedule of payments, though the university said Stanton did give it an additional gift of $25,000. Stanton's commitment to Yeshiva's long-term health parallels his family's longtime dedication to the university. Stanton previously pledged $10 million to the institution and has served on its board of directors for 30 years. In addition, Yeshiva's undergraduate library is named for his mother, Hedi Steinberg.

Lawrence J. Ellison
Lawrence J. Ellison

Lawrence J. Ellison—$100 million to the Ellison Medical Foundation. Ellison, 63 and the founder of the Oracle Corporation, a computer software company in Redwood Shores, Calif., pledged $100 million—$5 million of which has been paid—to the Ellison Medical Foundation in Bethesda, Md. The remainder will be paid out over the next five years. Ellison is giving the money to the foundation as part of the settlement of an insider-trading lawsuit in which Oracle shareholders accused Ellison of illegally making $900 million from the sale of shares of company stock shortly before the value of the stock plummeted in 2001. The lawsuit was settled in the fall of 2005, after Ellison argued in court that he did nothing illegal with the shares of Oracle stock. He agreed to pay the shareholders' legal fees and make a $100 million gift to a charity of his choice as a requirement of the settlement. He did not earmark the money for any specific purpose, but the foundation, which Ellison created in 1997, supports biomedical research on aging and research areas that might not be supported by other sources. In June, Ellison reneged on a $115 million pledge he had made in 2005 to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., to study global health. He said at the time that he would give another large gift elsewhere soon, but he has not made any other announcements of new gifts.

Mortimer B. Zuckerman
Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Mortimer B. Zuckerman—$100 million to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Zuckerman, chairman of U.S. News & World Report in Washington, publisher of the New York Daily News, and founder of Boston Properties, a real-estate investment trust, pledged $100 million to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York to help construct a cancer-research building that will almost double the size of the hospital's research facilities. The planned building, to be named for Zuckerman, will provide laboratories for researchers in immunology, oncology, molecular chemistry, and computational biology, among other disciplines. The new center will also house programs focused on improving care for cancer patients. Neither Zuckerman, who serves on Sloan-Kettering's board, nor the hospital disclosed further details about the gift or its payment schedule.

Peter B. Lewis—$99 million toPrinceton University, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and Fountain House. Lewis, 73, chairman of the Progressive Corporation, an insurance company in Mayfield Village, Ohio, pledged $80 million—of which $12 million has been paid—to Princeton University in New Jersey for creative and performing-arts programs. He also paid $3.5 million to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation in New York. In addition, he pledged $3 million—of which $600,000 has been paid—to Fountain House, a New York organization that helps people who are recovering from mental illness to learn to function independently. The money, to be paid over the next two years, will be used to build two new facilities. Lewis also awarded a total of $12.5 million to 50 nonprofit groups that support arts, human rights, and social-service causes.

Jon L. Stryker—$73.2 million to the Arcus Foundation. Stryker, 48 and heir to the Stryker Corporation, gave $68.6 million to the Arcus Foundation, which maintains offices in Kalamazoo, Mich., and New York. Stryker is a medical-products company founded by Jon's grandfather Homer, a surgeon who invented the mobile hospital bed. The money will be used to support the foundation's two grant-making priorities: fighting prejudice and discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people, and supporting programs dedicated to preserving the survival and habitat of great apes. Stryker left his job as an architect to concentrate all his energy on philanthropy and established the Arcus Foundation in 2000. He currently serves as president of the organization. In addition, Stryker gave a total of $4.6 million to 15 nonprofit organizations including the Synergos Institute, a New York group that works to find solutions to poverty in Africa, Asia, and Latin America; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Challenge Day, a youth group in Concord, Calif.; and other arts, education, and human-service groups.

  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Nov. 30 2015 2:50 PM The “Slightly Sad Breakfast” Bonus Segment The Political Gabfest hosts consider fresh food ideas to shake up Emily Bazelon’s morning routine.
  Health & Science
Nov. 30 2015 12:16 PM We Need a Moratorium on Genetically Modifying Humans The technology for potentially creating designer babies has progressed much faster than the deliberation.