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David Rockefeller

NET WORTH: $3 Billion

SOURCE of WEALTH: family fortune, JP Morgan Chase

FUNDING AREAS: Education, Arts & Culture, Global Development, Environment

OVERVIEW: Rockefeller has given away hundreds of millions over the course of his lifetime, and has pledged to give away over half a billion more. Meanwhile, the small foundation originally set up by he and his wife, the David Rockefeller Fund, has given a steady stream of small grants for years to many organizations.

BACKGROUND:  While many of the millionaires and billionaires we cover made their own fortunes, David Rockefeller inherited much of his wealth, at least early on. His grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, famously co-founded the Standard Oil Company, helping turn the Rockefellers into one of the most iconic families in American history. And not only was he one of the biggest players in the American Industrial Revolution; he helped shape American philanthropy, as well, by forming the Rockefeller Foundation.

While David Rockefeller was certainly never left wanting, however, he did not kick back and collect from his trust fund; he used it to make himself a successful businessman and philanthropist in his own right. After doing his undergrad at Harvard, Rockefeller continued to study economics there and at the London School of Economics, ultimately completing a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He worked briefly for the state of New York and the federal government before signing up for officer training and becoming a captain when WWII broke out. When he returned from the war, he took a job at Chase National Bank, where his uncle was CEO. He served in various positions before becoming president in 1960, and then Chairman and CEO in 1969. Eventually becoming Chase Manhattan, and now JPMorgan Chase, the bank is now one of the largest in the world.

At 99 years of age, David Rockefeller has long retired both from his positions at Chase, and from any hands-on role he once had in his own personal, and his family’s philanthropy. A signatory of the Giving Pledge, he's made large pledges to a number of different organizations that will not see the money until after his death.

PHILOSOPHY: The sole patriarch of the Rockefeller family since his last remaining brother died in 2004, David has made it a point to get his extended family involved in his family’s philanthropic affairs. His children, grandchildren and niece and nephews are active in the family's three main philanthropic foundations, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Rockefeller Family Fund, and the David Rockefeller Fund. His son, David Rockefeller, Jr., chairs the board of the the Rockefeller Foundation.

In 2005, he also started pledging major gifts to a variety of organizations that helped shape his life, choosing to have much of his philanthropy take place upon his death. 


EDUCATION: Rockefeller had already given $64 million to the University that bears his family’s name by 2005, when he pledged $100 million to the university to restore and connect old buildings, support work in their laboratories, and support graduate students. In 2008, he pledged an equivalent amount to his alma mater, Harvard, to create more international experiences and opportunities in the arts for undergraduate students. Harvard had also previously received $40 million, with $35 million of that going toward the creation and operation of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies. The Rhode Island School of Design has also received a million dollars.

ARTS & CULTURE: Rockefeller’s parents were avid art collectors; his father was known for his collection of ancient, medieval and Renaissance treasures, while his mother preferred modern art. Many of these pieces, along with the house David grew up in, were donated to the Museum of Modern Art, where Rockefeller has been a longtime trustee, and still holds the honorary title of Chairman Emeritus. Rockefeller had given $100 million to the organization by 2005, when he pledged to give $5 million per year, and an additional $100 million upon his death, bringing his total contribution to the organization that his mother helped found to some $250 million, not counting the 15 or so paintings he's donated, or pledged to donate. The museum even has an award named after him, honoring individuals who exemplify “enlightened generosity and effective advocacy of cultural and civic endeavors.” He’s also given $7.5 million to Colonial Williamsburg for historical preservation. 

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT: In 2006, David Rockefeller pledged $225 million upon his death to the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to create the David Rockefeller Fund for Global Development. The fund will focus on improving access to healthcare, alleviating poverty, sustainable development, and fostering a dialogue between Muslim and Western nations.

ENVIRONMENT: The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture will be getting $25 million upon his death, and MillionTreesNYC has been given $5 million.

LOOKING FORWARD: David Rockefeller has already laid out a large part of his legacy, with nearly $600 million set to go to organizations and causes he cares about upon his death. As a signatory of the Giving Pledge, however, there's another $1 billion or more that could end up going to philanthropic causes. Global development will surely be a big winner, as his $225 million fund starts making grants in that area. His substantial art collection will likely also fund its way to MOMA, the Rhode Island School of Design, Rockeeller University, and others. 


The David Rockefeller Fund, Inc.
30 Rockefeller Plz., Rm. 5600
New York, NY 10112-0002
Marianna S. Schaffer, Dir. of Progs.
(212) 649-5631
Fax: (212) 765-6817

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