Three Things to Know About Jonathan Nelson's Philanthropy

I recently wrote about the philanthropy of the richest person in Alaska, Robert Gillam. Jonathan Nelson, meanwhile, is the richest person in another under-the-radar state, Rhode Island. Nelson is worth more than $2 billion, and in his late 50s. While Nelson signed the Giving Pledge a few years ago, he has said that he made a private commitment to give away half of his wealth a long time ago. Here are a few things to know about Jonathan Nelson's philanthropy. 

1. Nelson Has Given Major Sums to His Alma Mater, Brown

Nelson is a major benefactor of his alma mater, Brown University. In 2004, he donated $10 million toward the construction of what is now the Jonathan Nelson Fitness Center. In 2011, Nelson funded two named professorships and in 2005 and 2006, more than $1 million went out the door annually. Steady streams are still flowing to Brown, with another $1.4 million going to the school in 2013. Nelson has also bankrolled the Ruth J. Simmons Scholarship Fund at Brown, which supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It's not just Brown that has received support, however. Funds have also gone to Harvard Business School and Rockefeller University. In K-12 education, support has gone to Gordon School and the Middlesex School, two independent schools in Rhode Island. Nelson also supported groups such as Year Up.

2. Nelson's Health Philanthropy is Personal

While Nelson's philanthropy in this area hasn't been overwhelming, at IP we often highlight how personal health philanthropy can be. In this case, Nelson's first wife lost her life to cancer. So far, Nelson has steadily supported the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and support has also gone to the Melanoma Research Foundation, the American Cancer Society, South County Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital, among others.

3. Assorted Sums Have Supported Other Rhode Island Organizations

Nelson has an interest in conservation, particularly in Rhode Island. Recent support has gone to the Narrow River Preservation Association, to support a local river watershed in southern Rhode Island. Money has also gone to Save the Bay, to protect and restore the Narragansett Bay, and to the Rhode Island Zoological Society. Money has also gone to arts groups such as the Newport Art Museum and the Newport Festivals Foundation.

Looking ahead, it's worth noting that some of Nelson's environmental philanthropy has found its way to Utah. It's tough to surmise what's down the line but for now, this Giving Pledge signatory is someone to keep an eye on.

Related: Jonathan Nelson Guide