Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles

NET WORTH: Unknown

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Gilder, Gagnon, Howe & Co, Founder

FUNDING AREAS: Education, History & Historic Preservation, NYC Community

OVERVIEW: Richard Gilder and his wife Lois Chiles conduct their charitable contributions through the Gilder Foundation. Gilder, who was born in 1932, has been involved in philanthropy for decades. In the 1970s, he founded the Central Park Community Fund and, in 1980, became a founding and continuing trustee of the Central Park Conservancy. Gilder is a chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute, a trustee of the the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Historical Society. With long-time friend Lewis E. Lehrman, Gilder established the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale.

BACKGROUND: Native New Yorker Richard Gilder attended Northfield Mount Hermon School before going on to Yale, which he graduated from in 1954 with a B.A. in history. Gilder worked as a stockbroker on Wall Street, first at A.G. Becker & Co. In 1968, Gilder founded his own firm, now known as Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co. 


EDUCATION: Gilder is a major supporter of his alma mater Yale. Gilder suggested that he and his classmates in the class of class of 1954 pool contributions to invest in stocks until their 50th reunion, when they would give the fund as a gift to Yale. By 2000, the so-called ’54/50 Fund’s investment hit $90 million. Gilder gave $20 million to Yale in 2013 alone, to help restore Sterling Memorial Library. In a prior decade, Gilder gave millions to establish the Richard Gilder Boathouse for Yale’s crew, for which his Olympic-medalist daughter rowed. Perhaps the most prominent Gilder effort at his alma mater is the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. The Gilder Lehrman Institute's activities include fellowships, prizes, seminars, and lectures.

Apart from Yale, the Gilder Foundation's grantmaking has supported Hunter College Foundation and Northfield Mount Hermon School to help build a new science, math, and technology facility on campus. Other grantees have included Saint David's School, Barnard College, and the University of Texas Foundation. Lois Chiles, a former actress, Bond girl, and fashion model, attended UT, and is the daughter of an oil tycoon in Houston.

The couple has also steadily supported the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, which describes itself as an "independent, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to improving education in NY State by promoting accountability, stimulating innovation, and supporting school choice efforts." Modest sums have also gone to Teach for America, Chess-in-the-Schools, and Education Through Music. A component of the Gilder Foundation's philanthropy also involves funding libraries in local parochial schools.

HISTORY & HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Gilder and his wife have made history and historic preservation a priority in their philanthropy. Besides the work at Yale at the Gilder Lehrman Institute,  recent money has gone to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Islesboro Historical Society, Virginia Historical Society, Montpelier Foundation, and the National Center for the American Revolution. Some of the largest donations in this area have gone to the New York Historical Society. Gilder has also steadily supported the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, which is sponsored by the College of William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

NYC COMMUNITY: The Gilders have been strong supporters of the Central Park Conservancy. In 1974, Gilder founded the Central Park Community Fund, one of two park groups that merged in 1980 to create the Central Park Conservancy, of which he is a founding trustee. More modest sums have gone to National Parks Of New York. The couple does have some interest in art and has supported the New York Philharmonic recently, as well as Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. In health, money has gone to Mount Sinai Medical Center, and Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia & Parkinson Foundation in Albany.

Finally, the Gilders have been heavily involved with the American Museum of Natural History, where Gilder is a trustee and served as co-chair of the museum board’s planetarium committee. The museum is also the site of the Richard Gilder Graduate School, which has a Ph.D. program in comparative biology. 

LOOKING AHEAD: It is worth noting that Gilder has also been involved with policy work at the Manhattan Institute, though the sums in that area of late have not been overwhelming. Still, he is chairman emeritus at the institute.


Gilder Foundation
1375 Broadway
New York, NY United States 10018
Contact: Daniella Muhling, Grants Admin.