Where Is John Arrillaga’s Philanthropy Headed?

Whether you credit nature or nurture, the philanthropy gene runs strong in many of America’s wealthiest families. Take Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, for instance. Not only is she heir to her father’s Silicon Valley real estate fortune and the wife of Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, she’s independently emerged as one of the most powerful women in U.S. philanthropy.

Well before Laura launched her own foundation to help philanthropists collaborate with each other and maximize the impact of their giving, she served as the director and board member for her father’s foundation. Which brings us to the John Arrillaga Foundation, which just might be on the receiving end of his $1.9 billion fortune someday. At the age of 76, John Arrillaga keeps a relatively low profile about his grantmaking, with a few exceptions.

(See Also: Arrillaga Foundation - Bay Area Grants)

John has no problem showing up the competition with money he gives to his alma mater, Stanford University. He made headlines about a year ago for awarding a $151 million gift to support university projects, narrowly edging out Dorothy and Robert King’s donation of $150 million. Back in the 1950s, Arrillaga attended Stanford, working six part-time jobs to pay his tuition. In an ongoing commitment to his alma mater, Arrillaga also endowed scholarships to support 50 Stanford students every year.

“My father's gifts have not only been financial,” wrote daughter Laura, who is also a Stanford alum. “As importantly, he has applied his vast knowledge of architecture, construction, landscape design, real estate and project management to all his philanthropic projects, making the most of everything he has to give. But for my father, writing a check is not enough. He sees philanthropy as marrying financial resources with intellectual, network and human capital.”

Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen has long been involved in her father’s philanthropic giving, serving as a director of the John Arrillaga Foundation’s since 1995. But what other players are in the mix?

John’s late wife and Laura’s mother, Frances, was another Stanford grad who once taught sixth grade in the Palo Alto Unified School District. Laura has often credited her mother for shaping the family’s view of philanthropy and keeping the giving spirit alive even after her death. John has since remarried, although little is known about his wife Gioia's involvement in family philanthropy beyond the fact that she is one of four board members of the John Arrillaga Foundation. (Gioia Fasi Arrillaga is lawyer, the author of self-help books for children, and a daughter of the former long-time mayor of Honolulu.)

John Arrillaga Jr., is the other family member on the foundation's board. He's a finance guy with two degrees from Stanford, including an MBA, and keeps a pretty low profile when it comes to philanthropy. However, his wife, Justine Steadman Arrillaga, was the founder of the TEAK Fellowship, an education access program for low-income kids, and he and his wife remain supporters of that organization. 

John Sr.’s company, Peery Arrillaga, leases office buildings throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. His business partner, Dick Peery, started his own family philanthropy, the Peery Foundation, around the same time that John established his. Peery focuses his grantmaking on early to mid-stage social entrepreneurs who are effectively addressing the issues of poverty.

So what’s in store for the future of the John Arrillaga Foundation?

John Arrillaga hasn't signed the Giving Pledge and is heading into his late 70s. Our bet is that the bulk of his fortune is destined for his foundation and that Laura and John will eventually find themselves controlling serious philanthropic resources. So while Laura has mainly been an innovative thought leader and connector in philanthropy, the day may come when she'll be a substantial grantmaker, too. But that's all guesswork.

What we do know for sure is that since Arrillaga established his foundation around 1978, he's made donations to non-Stanford organizations, too. For instance, he awarded several education and government grants to the City of Menlo Park and Menlo School. Higher education institutions, human services organizations, and health organizations are the most common Arrillaga grant recipients. At the end of 2012, the foundation reported over $24 million in assets and nearly $5 million in total giving.

Like other wealthy donors such as Mark Zuckerberg, John Sobrato, and Lorry Lokey, John also sends money over to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to let its staff handle the time-consuming grantmaking process (Read Silicon Valley Community Foundation: Bay Area Grants).

Unfortunately for grantseekers, Arrillaga has never developed a website for his foundation, and there’s no evidence of any staff members running the day-to-day operations to get in touch with directly.