Belfer Family Foundation: Grants for Higher Education

OVERVIEW: The Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation has given big donations to a small group of higher ed institutions over the years for purposes including health research and, more recently, cybersecurity. Not many higher ed institutions have ended up on the receiving end of this foundation’s largesse, but when they have, the rewards have been substantial.

IP TAKE: This is another foundation that gives big but has no web presence or clear way to apply for funding. The current status of its grantmaking in health research is also unclear.

PROFILE: Businessman Arthur Belfer fled Poland in the 1930's, ultimately founding an oil empire that is now in its third generation. When Arthur's son Robert took over the family business, he continued his father's success. That all changed when Belfer's millions of shares in Enron went belly up.

Belfer has diversified into other areas and while he's no longer on the Forbes 400 list, his family foundation is still a big player in its giving--when it gives.

As IP has reported, Robert and Renee Belfer, along with their son Lawrence, have recently shown a major concern with cybersecurity. To that end, they recently gave a $15 million gift to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School to establish the Cyber Security Project, which "seeks to help create the conceptual arsenal" for strategists to confront cyber threats.

In the past, the Belfers have also given big to health-related higher ed, particularly cancer. Robert Belfer has served on the boards of a number of university and non-academic medical research centers. Over the course of several years, for example, Belfer donated at least $250 million to Weill Cornell Medical College, enabling it to open the Belfer Research Building, an 18-story, $650 million research facility conducting research in cancer, cardiovascular disease, global health and neurodegenerative disorders. More recently, the foundation gave a more modest general operating award to the Weill Medical College.

Another higher ed recipient of major Belfer funding is the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, which received $5 million out of a $25 million commitment (dependent on securing of matching funds) to the Neurodegeneration Consortium (NDC), a multi-institutional collaboration between MD Anderson, Baylor College of Medicine, and MIT.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University also recently received a six-figure sum from the foundation, but at the moment, it is unclear whether the foundation will continue to focus on medical research as a priority area.

Unfortunately, the foundation has no web presence or clear way to apply for funding (recent tax filings say that funding is by solicitation only), so getting your foot in the door will be a challenge.


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    Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation
    767 5th Ave., 46th Fl.
    New York, NY 10153
    Telephone: (212) 508-9500