Starr Foundation Keeps Cornell’s Medical School On Top

Weill Cornell Medical College is one of the top medical schools in the country, and in part, it has the Starr Foundation to thank for keeping it on top. The Starr Foundation, which focuses much of its grantmaking on medicine and healthcare, recently awarded several high dollar grants for program development and building renovation at the medical school. (See Starr Foundation: Grants for New York City). Starr awarded $55 million to Weill for cancer research, $50 million to develop its stem cell initiative program, $10 million to build a new research facility, and $900,000 for basic science research.

In a Weill press release, Provost for Medical Affairs Laurie Glimcher stated:

"Inspired philanthropy stays ahead of the curve. It builds creative partnerships with a focused end game in mind — the improvement of human health. This epitomizes the leadership of The Starr Foundation. They are helping to shape the model for the future of biomedical research. We are enormously grateful for their vision and support."

But if you scroll through Weill's philanthropy page, you won't find founder Cornelius Vander Starr's name listed. Despite these huge grants, Starr likes to remain low profile.

Unlike some of New York's other philanthropic foundations, Starr limits most of its healthcare giving to hospitals and research centers within the city limits. It has given hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to New York University, as well as for general operating support at Baruch College of the City University of New York and the New York Genome Center. With essentially no experience in the medical field, founder Cornelius Starr was an insurance entrepreneur and the foundation's Board of Directors is composed of attorneys and economists. And although the foundation's grantmaking has traditionally revolved around its educational scholarships, there has been an obvious shift towards healthcare. (Read Starr Foundation president, Florence Davis' IP profile).

Take a look at Starr's Application Guidelines on their foundation page and the bolded words "Please DO NOT send unsolicited materials to the Foundation" will be staring back at you. The foundation does not even provide any contact information on their website. We hear you loud and clear, Starr.

However, the foundation hasn't always put an iron gate on their mailbox. Starr has never been into official applications or deadlines, but the board of directors generally reviews applications on a rolling basis. To get a piece of Starr's $1.25 billion of assets, you'll need to provide an detailed cover letter, breakdown of your organization's budget, financial statements, list of other financial supporters, list of board members, and IRS determination letter. In spite of Starr's bolded warning, your best bet to get in contact with the foundation about a health grant is by emailing President Florence Davis at or Vice President Gladys Thomas at