Sam and Lynn Waterston

NET WORTH: $15 million, estimated


FUNDING AREAS: Arts, Education, Environment, Global, Religious

OVERVIEW: Sam Waterston, his wife Lynn and family do their grantmaking through the Waterston Family Foundation, which has given away under $1 million annually in recently reported tax years. The foundation keeps a low profile and does not appear to accept unsolicited proposals. The Waterstons via their foundation earmark funds for various causes, including the arts and the environment. Waterston is a long time board member of Refugees International. 

BACKGROUND: Born in 1940 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sam Waterston attended the Groton School and Yale University, graduating in 1962. He worked as a theater actor in New York and also forged a career on the big and small screens. He has appeared in various Woody Allen films, including Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors and September, and earned an Academy Award for his role in The Killing Fields. Waterston is best known for his Emmy-nominated role as Jack McCoy on the long-running television series Law & Order


ARTS: Considering Waterston's long career in theater, film and television, it is no surprise his philanthropy also concerns these issues. Waterston is a trustee of Public Theater in New York City, which he has supported via his foundation. Other Waterston Family Foundation arts grantees include Actors Fund of America, American Theatre Wing, Ballet Tech Foundation, Lincoln Center Theater, Long Wharf Theater and Manhattan Theater Club.

EDUCATION: Waterston steadily supports alma maters Yale and Groton. Some of Waterston's work with Yale involves its School of Drama. Waterston has also supported schools like Brearley in Manhattan and Kildonan School.

ENVIRONMENT: Waterston is on the board of ocean conservation organization Oceana, which the family foundation has supported. Of the interest, Waterston said, "I've loved the ocean all my life... as a New Englander, I've seen the nasty effects of fisheries collapses on the life of seaside towns. Scientists now warn us that unless we do something, the world is on a path to global fishery collapses by mid-century, a calamity of mind-boggling proportions we can still avert." Other grantees include Natural Resources Defense Council, Cornwall Conservation Trust, and Nature Conservancy. Cornwall serves as an important site of philanthropy for this Connecticut-area family. 

GLOBAL: Waterston was on the board of Refugees International for years (he is currently an emeritus director) and supports the organization via his foundation. He has also supported organizations like Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children. 

RELIGIOUS: Waterston is Episcopalian and has supported places like Chapel of All Saints, Bishops Fund for Children, Cathedral of St. John’s of Divine in Morningside Heights, Church of the Transfiguration, Episcopal Charities, Episcopal Social Services and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. 

OTHER: Waterston also earmarks funds for health causes, including AIDS and mental health. 

LOOKING FORWARD: In his 70s, Waterston is still acting, while balancing other interests. Expect this family's philanthropy to continue with its regional focus on the Northeast. Apart from the family's charitable organization, the Waterstons may have other more direct avenues of giving, and some important grants may be missing from this rundown. 


The Waterston Family Foundation does not provide a clear avenue of contact but below is an address:

Waterston Family Foundation
170 Avery Rd.
Garrison, NY 10524