Slate 60: The largest American charitable contributions of the year.
Slate 60: The largest American charitable contributions of the year.
Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 6 2011 7:18 PM

Slate 60: Donor Bios

The largest American charitable contributions of the year.

2010 Slate 60: Top Donors. Click image to launch slide show.

1. George Soros—$332 million to the Open Society Foundations and other grant makers that are primarily supported by his wealth.. Soros, 80, is chairman of Soros Fund Management, a New York firm that manages hedge funds, and is the founder of the Open Society Foundations, which includes the Open Society Institute—established in 1993 to support the development of democratic institutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union. In 2010 the Open Society Foundations gave an estimated $875 million to nonprofit groups. One of the largest grants was $100 million to Human Rights Watch, a New York group that investigates and publicizes human-rights abuses worldwide, to enable the organization to increase the number of its regional offices around the globe and to expand its research capabilities. Soros asked the human-rights organization in September to use the news of the Open Society Foundations grant to raise an additional $100 million from other donors, but he did not make that a requirement. In an interview with the Chronicle of Philanthropy in September, Soros said that his foundations awarded the grant as a way to endorse Human Rights Watch's plans to expand its reach. He credits the organization with helping to form him as a philanthropist decades ago and said he hoped the grant would encourage philanthropists outside of Europe and North America to support human-rights efforts. "It's going to be an uphill struggle because in many countries tax [laws] are not as favorable as in the U.S., and there isn't a tradition and culture of giving to rather abstract causes," said Soros. Open Society Foundations also awarded $11 million last year to the Performing Arts Recovery Initiative, a one-time grant program managed by the Fund for the City of New York, to help small New York arts groups that were hit hard by the financial crisis. Through the award, 79 arts groups will receive two-year grants ranging from $65,000 to $250,000 to pay for operating expenses.—Maria Di Mento

2. Michael R. Bloomberg—$279.2 million to arts, human services, public affairs, and other groups. Bloomberg, 68 and the mayor of New York City, founded Bloomberg LP, a financial-data and news-service company, in New York. He gave a total of $279.2 million to 970 nonprofit groups that support the arts, human services, public affairs, and other causes. Among the wide array of organizations he has supported: Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, in New York; the Center for Public Integrity, in Washington; El Museo del Barrio, in New York; Food Bank for New York City; Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, in New York; the Kennedy Krieger Institute, in Baltimore; Loaves and Fishes, in Charlotte, N.C.; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York; the Migration Policy Institute, in Washington; Metropolitan Opera Association, in New York; Natural Resources Defense Council, in New York; Points of Light Foundation, in Atlanta; Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville, N.Y.; Spina Bifida Association of America, in Washington; West Harlem Group Assistance, in New York; the Wounded Warrior Project's Jacksonville, Fla., chapter; and numerous other groups in New York and elsewhere.

—Maria Di Mento


3. T. Denny Sanford—$162.5 million to Sanford Health Foundation, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, and the Florida Hospital for Children. Sanford, 75, is chairman of United National Corporation, a banking business in Sioux Falls, S.D. He gave $100 million to the Sanford Health Foundation, in Sioux Falls, S.D., to establish a national institute focused on research into and treatment of breast cancer. Foundation officials plan to announce more information about the center, such as where it will be located, in August. In 2007 Sanford pledged $400 million to the foundation to establish pediatric clinics in the United States and abroad and to support pediatric health care and medical research. He paid off the pledge in 2009. In addition to his new gift to Sanford Health, he pledged $50 million to support research programs at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, which has locations in La Jolla, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; and Santa Barbara, Calif. The institute was named for Sanford last year after he pledged the gift. He had also given the institute $20 million in 2007. Sanford also pledged $10 million to the Florida Hospital for Children, in Orlando, for a new pediatric hospital and $2.5 million to Vision360, an evangelical Christian missionary organization also located in Orlando.

Maria Di Mento

4.Irwin M. and Joan K. Jacobs—$119.5 million to the University of California at San Diego Health System and Joan and Irwin Jacobs Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego. Irwin Jacobs, 77 and co-founder of Qualcomm, a wireless-communications company in San Diego, and his wife Joan, 78, pledged $75 million to the University of California at San Diego Health System, in La Jolla, to build a new medical center, which will be named for the couple. The Jacobses have paid $10 million toward the pledge and plan to pay the remainder in $10 million annual increments through 2015. They will then pay $12 million in 2016 and the last $3 million in 2017. The Jacobses stipulated in their agreement with the university that specific construction benchmarks, such as the completion of preliminary floor plans, steel framing, and other developments, must be met for the institution to receive each annual payment. In addition, the couple gave $39.1 million to their Joan and Irwin Jacobs Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, where Joan Jacobs serves as vice chairwoman of the organization's board of directors. Through this fund, the Jacobses awarded several grants last year, including a $6 million grant to the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in La Jolla, Calif., for a professorship in genomics and another in neuroscience as well as grants to the American Civil Liberties Union, in New York; KPBS San Diego, a public-broadcasting group; and other nonprofits. Irwin Jacobs serves as chairman of the board of trustees at the Salk Institute. The Jacobses also made many smaller gifts last year, including $5 million to the San Diego Symphony for its endowment; $320,000 to the Dunaway Foundation, a philanthropy the Jacobses recently established in San Diego; and a total of $70,694 to other groups. Joan Jacobs is chairwoman of the symphony foundation's board of directors.

—Maria Di Mento

5.Eli and Edythe L. Broad—$118.3 million to the Broad Foundations. Eli Broad, 77 and founding chairman of KB Home Corporation, a home builder, and of SunAmerica, a financial-services company, and his wife, Edythe, 74, gave $118.3 million to the Broad Foundations in Los Angeles. The foundations support civic programs, contemporary art museums, efforts to improve elementary and secondary public-school education, and medical and scientific research. Last year, the Broad Foundations awarded several grants, primarily to education groups. The foundations gave $10 million to the D.C. Public Education Fund, in Washington, to support public schools there and a $2.2 million grant to the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard. The foundations also gave $2 million for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, an annual prize established in 2002 and awarded to metropolitan school districts that have succeeded in improving student performance and graduation rates among low-income and minority students. In addition, the Broad Foundations awarded $2 million to the Inner City Education Foundation, a charter-schools organization in Los Angeles, for operations costs; $1.5 million to New Leaders for New Schools, a New York group that trains public-school principals; a $1 million grant to Achievement First, a charter-school management organization in New Haven, Conn., and Brooklyn, N.Y., to open new schools in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island; and $1 million to Rocketship Education, a charter-schools organization in San Jose, Calif., to expand the group's "hybrid school" model, a program that combines classroom instruction with online learning for students in kindergarten through the fifth grade.

—Maria Di Mento

6. Leonard Blavatnik—$117.2 million to the University of Oxford. Blavatnik, 53, founded Access Industries, an international corporation with holdings in chemicals and natural resources, media and telecommunications, and real estate. He pledged about $117.2 million to the University of Oxford, in England, to establish the Blavatnik School of Government. The money will go toward constructing a building for the new school and will support 40 professorships. A portion of the gift will endow operating costs for the school. He was born and raised in Russia, came with his family to the United States in 1978, and became a U.S. citizen in 1984. Blavatnik did not attend Oxford but received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Moscow State University, in Russia, in 1978 and a master's degree in computer science from Columbia University in 1981. He then went on to earn a master's in business administration from Harvard in 1989. Blavatnik wanted to donate money to a graduate school of government that would focus on improving government and public-policy practices globally but found that most such schools were in the United States. Blavatnik then learned of Oxford's desire, dating back to the 1920s, to establish such a school and decided the university was the best place to direct his donation. "Oxford has a global reputation, based on a centuries-old tradition of public service and excellence in public policy," said Blavatnik in a written statement. "Students will learn how to promote good government in both the public and private sectors, and the school will promote the exchange of new ideas while endowing its students with a fresh sense of purpose." Blavatnik serves on the boards of Tel Aviv University, in Israel, and the University of Cambridge. He also serves on Harvard University's Committee on University Resources. In addition, he serves on the boards of several New York institutions, including the Center for Jewish History, the New York Academy of Sciences, the 92nd Street Y, and the White Nights Foundation of America, a group that raises money to support several Russian arts groups. He is also a trustee of the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. No details were available about Blavatnik's schedule for paying the pledge to Oxford.

—Maria Di Mento

7. Frances Lasker Brody—Approximately $110 million to the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Brody, who was 93 when she died in November 2009, inherited wealth from her father, Albert Lasker, widely considered to be a pioneer of modern advertising, and her husband, Sidney Brody, a real-estate magnate who built shopping centers. Her bequest came from the proceeds of the sale of her art collection, which included significant works by Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso (including Picasso's landmark Nude, Green Leaves and Bust); her midcentury modern home in Los Angeles, which was designed by A. Quincy Jones; and miscellaneous valuables. Brody didn't become involved with the Huntington until she was in her 70s. She struck up a friendship with James Folsom, who directs the organization's botanical gardens. About nine years ago, she told Steven Koblik, president of the Huntington, that she was planning to sell her art collection. Koblik recalls with laughter that she read his mind and immediately quashed his hopes by bluntly stating, "You're not getting the art." Before that art collection was sold, in May, the organization learned it was the sole beneficiary of her estate after her heirs received their inheritances, but Huntington officials had no idea how much money that would be. In October the Huntington received $15 million for its gardens as stipulated by Brody in her trust. And in November the institution received $80 million to finance its operations over time. The sale of her house yielded another $14.1 million for the Huntington. According to the executor of her will, Robert Shuwarger, Brody hoped that her gifts would provide financial stability for the organization. She carved her own reputation based on her formidable intellect and forceful personality. Never shy about expressing her opinions, Brody commissioned a ceramic mural in 1953 from Henri Matisse, and when the artist sent her a sketch, she told him he had to try again.

—Caroline Bermudez

8. T. Boone Pickens—$101 million to Oklahoma State University. Pickens, 82, founded Mesa Petroleum, an oil company, and BP Capital, an energy-investment firm, both in Dallas. He pledged $100 million to Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, to endow scholarships that will be awarded based on academic merit and to provide financial aid for students who otherwise could not afford to attend. The institution will receive the money upon Pickens' death. A 1951 graduate of the university, Pickens has made numerous other donations to Oklahoma State. Counting this pledge, he has committed close to $500 million to the institution over his lifetime. In addition to his pledge to Oklahoma State in 2010, Pickens gave a total of $1,046,512 to 30 human service, medical, public affairs, and other groups throughout the country.

9. Meyer and Renee Luskin—$100.5 million tothe University of California at Los Angeles. Meyer Luskin, 85 and chairman of Scope Industries, and his wife, Renee, 78, pledged $100 million to the University of California at Los Angeles. Of the total, $50 million will endow the university's School of Public Affairs; $40 million will help pay for a new building to house a conference center, guest quarters, and a faculty club; and $10 million will endow a speakers series. Both the public-affairs school and the new building will be named for the Luskins. The couple has paid $22 million toward the pledge and plan to pay off the rest over the next few years. They also gave $500,000 in 2010 to the university's David Geffen School of Medicine. The Luskins are UCLA alumni and met while they were students there. Both earned bachelor's degrees at the institution: Meyer Luskin earned his in economics in 1949, and Renee Luskin earned hers in sociology in 1953. They gave the university $5 million in 1998 to establish the Luskin Center for Innovation, which is housed in the School of Public Affairs. Meyer Luskin serves on the university foundation's board of directors.

—Maria Di Mento

10. Marc R. and Lynne Benioff—$100 million to the University of California at San Francisco Children's Hospital. Marc Benioff, 46 and founder of, and his wife, Lynne, pledged $100 million to the University of California at San Francisco Children's Hospital for a new building, to be named for the couple. The Benioffs have paid $50 million toward their pledge and plan to pay the remaining $50 million over the next five years. Marc Benioff wrote in a statement that while the couple has been donating anonymously to a variety of causes, they decided in 2010 to focus all of their giving in the coming years on the children's hospital:"This is where we believe our time and resources will make the most impact in the next decade and beyond." He also noted the couple's goal is to make the new medical institution the most advanced children's hospital in the world. He said they decided to attach their name to this gift to encourage other entrepreneurs to donate large amounts to causes important to them. The Benioffs' daughter was born at the hospital, and Lynne Benioff serves on the hospital foundation's board.

— Maria Di Mento

10. Mark Zuckerberg—$100 million to Startup: Education. Zuckerberg, 26 and co-founder of Facebook, has pledged $100 million worth of Facebook stock to establish his foundation, Startup: Education. He plans to make the donation over five years. The foundation will support programs that are working to improve public schools in Newark, N.J. Details about how much of the pledge Zuckerberg put into the foundation in 2010 were not available. The commitment is significant because it is the largest known donation by an American of Zuckerberg's generation. Furthermore, Zuckerberg has no personal connection to Newark or to New Jersey. He grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and mostly attended private schools before attending Harvard and then, famously, dropping out to start Facebook. Yet witnessing his girlfriend Priscilla Chan's experiences as a teacher working in public schools under the Teach for America program, Zuckerberg started thinking about the country's public-education system. He then spent about a year studying education issues. Then last July, he met Cory Booker, Newark's mayor at a conference and the two got to talking about Booker's success at slashing the city's crime rate and the 41-year-old mayor's desire to improve Newark's school system. Inspired, Zuckerberg says he recalls thinking, "This is the guy I want to invest in. This is a real person who can create this change."

—Maria Di Mento

12. Terrence M. and Kim Pegula—$88 million to Penn State University. Terrence M. Pegula founded East Resources, an oil and gas exploration and development company, in Warrendale, Pa. He then sold it to Royal Dutch Shell in 2010 for $4.7 billion. The Pegulas together founded the Black River Music Group, in Nashville, and the Ayrault Sports Agency, in Charlotte, N.C. They pledged $88 million to Pennsylvania State University in State College, P.A., to build a new athletics arena, to support the university's men's and women's hockey programs, and to provide scholarships to hockey players who attend the university. Terrence Pegula, 59, earned a bachelor's degree in petroleum and natural-gas engineering from the university in 1973. Although he did not play hockey when he attended Penn State, he and his wife are lifelong hockey fans, and he and his family often attend the university's games, said Joe Battista, the university's associate athletic director for ice-arena operations. Battista, who had met Terrence Pegula many years ago but didn't know him well, said the gift came about when, in the fall of 2005, Pegula called Battista (then a coach for the men's hockey team) at his unlisted home number and asked him why Penn State didn't have varsity hockey. Battista offered to meet with him to discuss the university's then-nonvarsity hockey programs. Over dinner, Battista told Pegula that it came down to money: The university could not afford to operate a top-level, varsity hockey program and probably never would. Pegula evidently disagreed. "He said 'Joe, I think I can help you get to the next level,' " recalls Battista, who privately assumed Pegula had no idea how much money it was going to take.  Over the next couple of years, Pegula began meeting with university officials to discuss how much he could donate to create a varsity hockey program. By 2008 he was preparing to sell East Resources and make the gift. Then the markets tumbled, and the financial crisis delayed the sale of his company and donation. When the markets rebounded and the financial climate improved last year, Pegula resumed his plans to sell the company, which he did in May. In August, he revisited his talks with Penn State officials, and Pegula, Battista, and other university officials then toured the hockey facilities of the University of Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, and other institutions. In August, Battista received a text message from Pegula, who wanted the former coach to know that he had signed a pledge agreement to give the university $88 million over the next five years. The commitment from the Pegulas is the largest donation the university has received to date. The donation will be paid out in cash over the next five years.

—Maria Di Mento


13. Juanita Kious Waugh—$83.7 million to the Mayo Clinic and Saint Joseph's College, in Rensselaer, Ind. Waugh, who was 87 when she died in February 2010, managed her family's farms and inherited some of her wealth from the family's banking, brick, and cattle businesses. She bequeathed about $43.5 million in cash to the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minn., for education programs and building projects. She also left 7,634 acres of farmland valued "at nearly $40.2 million to Saint Joseph's College. Although not closely involved with the Mayo Clinic, Waugh and her mother had been patients there over the years. Her involvement with Saint Joseph's College, however, came from her decades-long friendship with the Catholic college's former leader, the Rev. Charles Banet, who was president from 1965 to 1993. Though outspokenly nonreligious, Waugh met Father Banet at a dinner party and the two became fast friends, often engaging each other in debates about religion. Her bequest to Saint Joseph's has its roots in that friendship and in her commitment to protecting her family's farms, ownership of which dates to the late 1800s. After Waugh's father, Lloyd Waugh, died in 1949, the farms were managed for two years by others, but Waugh and her mother, Laura Blanche Kious Waugh, were unhappy with the way the farms were being run, so the two women took over their management. Together, they operated the farms until 1982, when Waugh's mother died and Juanita became the sole manager. Fiercely proud of her family's successful farming business, Waugh knew she wanted to keep the land working even after her death. Although she had given the college small gifts in the 1970s and '80s totaling only about $3,600, Waugh stopped donating around 1983. Until Father Banet died about 10 years ago, though, he kept her informed about the college, and in 2009 she contacted Saint Joseph's officials as she was preparing her will. Through her friendship with Father Banet, she had learned of the college's agrarian history (the institution's priests and monks had worked its land, which helped support the college in its early days). During her 2009 meetings with college officials, she learned that Saint Joseph's owned almost 1,000 acres of land but used only a small portion of it for the college's purposes and rented the rest to tenant farmers. Impressed by the college's continuing commitment to agriculture, she finalized her intentions to leave all 7,634 acres of working farmland to the college. Waugh, a savvy businesswoman according to those who knew her, worried that the church might one day overturn any agreement she had with the college and sell her land if it needed cash. To guarantee the protection of the farms from development or sale, she stipulated in her will and written agreements with the college that neither the college nor the church could sell the farmland, going so far as to stipulate in the transfer deed that the land could be used only for farming and wind-energy production and never sold. The deed also requires the college to establish a conservation easement that will be held and monitored by an outside entity. Earnings from the farms—which produce 600,000 bushels of corn and 200,000 bushels of soybeans annually and contain energy-producing wind turbines—will support scholarships for students at Saint Joseph's. College officials say the institution will receive about $1.5 million a year. In addition to her two large bequests, Ms. Waugh left $10,000 to Brookston Federated Church and another $10,000 to Otterbein Methodist Church, both in Indiana. Although she held steady to her beliefs about religion throughout her life, she came to know the two churches through friends who attended them. Waugh also left $5,000 to the Doris Day Animal League in Washington.—Maria Di Mento

14. David R. and Patricia D. Atkinson—$80 million to Cornell University. David Atkinson, 72, a former partner with Miller, Anderson & Sherrerd, a Philadelphia money-management firm, now runs Atkinson & Company, the couple's private-investment business. He and his wife, Patricia, pledged $80 million to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., to support the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, a research center focused on the challenges facing energy, the environment, and economic development around the world. The couple established the center as a pilot program in 2007 with a $3 million donation. Their recent pledge endows the center's research programs and will enable the center to hire new faculty members as well as to support the center's general operations and other programs. No details were available about a timeline for paying the pledge. David Atkinson earned a bachelor's degree in 1960 from Cornell's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He grew up near New Egypt, N.J., on a poultry farm that his father, who had only a ninth-grade education, ran successfully. The donor said he believes a "productive, efficient agricultural sector is a key ingredient for economic development."

—Maria Di Mento

15. Henry C. Woods Jr. and Jane C. Woods—$67 million to Lawrenceville School and North Shore Country Day School.Donors' background: Henry Woods taught English literature and was an heir to the Sahara Coal Company fortune. The Chicago company is now an investment-holdings firm. Woods, who was 84 when he died in 2005, and his wife, Jane, who was 87 when she died in 2007, left $58.5 million to the Lawrenceville School, a private high school in New Jersey. The couple placed no restrictions on the gift. School officials say they plan to use the money primarily for financial aid and faculty salaries. Henry Woods graduated from the school in 1940 and returned in 1952 to teach English. He was chairman of the school's English department from 1978 to 1986, the year he retired. He served on Lawrenceville's board of trustees from 1989 to 1995. In addition, the couple bequeathed $8.5 million to the North Shore Country Day School, a private school in Winnetka, Ill. Jane Woods graduated from the school in 1937. The Woods family has a long history of philanthropy. Henry's grandparents, Frank H. Woods Sr. and Nelle Cochrane Woods, founded the Woods Charitable Fund, a private family foundation in Lincoln, Neb., in 1941. Henry's father, Frank Woods Jr. of Chicago, and Henry's Uncle, Thomas Woods of Lincoln, later led the foundation through the 1970s and 1980s, and Henry's father was instrumental in the development of the Council on Foundations. When Frank Jr. and Thomas died in 1980 and 1989, respectively, the foundation went through a period of change and was later split into two organizations, the Woods Charitable Fund and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

—Caroline Bermudez

16. Pierre and Pam Omidyar—$61.5 million to HopeLab, Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and the Ulupono Initiative. Pierre Omidyar founded eBay, and Pam. Omidyar is chairwoman of HopeLab, a nonprofit in Redwood City, Calif., that develops technology to help chronically ill children. The Omidyars, both 43, gave a total of slightly more than $61.5 million to four organizations: HopeLab; Humanity United, a Redwood City group that supports efforts to fight slavery and mass atrocities around the globe; the nonprofit arm of the Omidyar Network, also in Redwood City, which supports a variety of charities; and the nonprofit branch of the Ulupono Initiative, a Honolulu organization that supports groups focused on the environment, local agriculture, and sustainable energy.

—Maria Di Mento

17. William A. and Karen Ackman—$59.3 million to the Pershing Square Foundation. William Ackman, 44, founded Pershing Square Capital Management, a hedge fund in New York. Karen Ackman is a landscape architect. They gave $58 million to the Pershing Square Foundation in 2010, which they created in 2006 to support education, human rights, social entrepreneurship, and other causes. They contributed an additional $1.3 million to 50 other nonprofits. In September, the Pershing Square Foundation announced its largest pledge to date: $25 million to help improve the public-school system in Newark, N.J. Ackman has known the city's mayor, Cory Booker, for years and has supported other city-improvement efforts, such as cleaning up its parks. When Booker was seeking additional donors to match a $100 million pledge that Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was making to Newark's school system, the Ackmans' foundation came forward with the biggest commitment yet next to Zuckerberg's. Also last year, the foundation pledged $5 million to the One Acre Fund, which fights hunger by helping African farmers grow and sell more crops. Other grantees include Echoing Green Foundation in New York, Digital Divide Data in New York, and the Global Health Delivery Project (an effort by Harvard University, Partners in Health, and Brigham and Women's Hospital to improve how global-health projects are run). Along with his role as a trustee of the Pershing Square Foundation, William Ackman serves on the boards of Boys and Girls Harbor, the Center for Jewish History, and Park Avenue Armory, all of which are in New York. Karen Ackman is a board member of the couple's foundation and two other New York nonprofits: Human Rights Watch and Friends of the High Line.

—Caroline Preston

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