Posted on December 30, 2009
2009: Noteworthy Gifts
PND - 2009: Noteworthy Gifts
For a few weeks at the beginning of the year, one could have said the days of the nine-figure charitable gift were history — and not have been considered crazy. With Washington scrambling to avoid a meltdown of the financial system and dozens of investors and foundations rocked by the fallout from Bernie Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the boom years, on Wall Street and in philanthropy, seemed to be at an end. But thanks in part to the trillions of dollars of liquidity injected into the system by the Federal Reserve and Treasury, financial armageddon was averted and by year's end the tempo of mega-gift announcements had picked up.
Amidst the doom and gloom of January and February, one act of generosity stood out: the ten-year, $100 million gift from technology entrepreneur Terry Ragon and his wife, Susan, to Mass General to create an institute in partnership with MIT and Harvard that will work to accelerate research on an AIDS vaccine. That announcement was soon followed by a handful of other eight- and nine-figure gift announcements, many in support of medical research or health-related causes.
In March, the University of California, San Francisco received a $125 million matching gift from Charles F. Feeney and Atlantic Philanthropies for construction of a state-of-the-art medical center on UCSF's Mission Bay campus. April saw Citigroup chair emeritus Sandy Weill and his wife, Joan, agree to provide $170 million of a nine-figure pledge they had originally planned as a bequest to help raise $200 million for the construction of a new research building at Weill Cornell Medical College. In April, South Dakota businessman and philanthropist Denny Sanford fulfilled a $400 million commitment to Sioux Falls-based Sanford Health — more than five years ahead of schedule — while J. Ronald Terwilliger, the chairman and former CEO of Trammell Crow Residential, the largest multi-family housing developer in the United States, pledged $100 million in May to Habitat for Humanity International to support the organization's efforts to provide affordable housing to people around the world.
In November, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a former UCLA Medical Center surgeon who founded Abraxis BioScience, and his wife, Michelle Chan, announced a $100 million commitment to help Los Angeles County and the University of California reopen Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital for in-patient care. And in December, longtime Cincinnati arts patron and philanthropist Louise Nippert, whose husband, Louis, was a great-grandson of James A. Gamble, one of the founders of Procter & Gamble, made a gift of $85 million in support of a number of the city's most prominent cultural institutions and to help preserve the high quality of classical music in the Queen City.
The two largest gifts of 2009, however, were made by living donors to their family foundations. Just before the end of the year, the Chronicle of Philanthropy announced that investment managers Stanley and Fiona Druckenmiller had given $705 million to the Druckenmiller Foundation to support medical research, education reform, and the foundation's efforts to fight poverty. And on the second to last day of the year, the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation announced a $747 million gift from its former chairman, John C. Haas — whose parents, Otto and Phoebe Haas, created the foundation in 1945 — to support in perpetuity the quality of life for individuals in the Greater Philadelphia region.
There were a number of other noteworthy gifts made in 2009. Midway through the year, Open Society Institute founder George Soros announced a one-time gift of $100 million to support nonprofits in central and eastern Europe working to help poor and low-income people affected by the global economic crisis. Also during the summer, the Druckenmillers pledged $100 million to New York University's Langone Medical Center, where Ms. Druckenmiller serves as a trustee, to establish a neuroscience institute. In October, Bill and Melinda Gates made a $350 million gift to their own foundation, the world's largest private philanthropy, for construction of a new headquarter campus. And in November, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $125 million to six organizations working in low- and middle-income countries around the world to prevent death and disability from road traffic crashes.
And then there was Massachusetts philanthropist Robert I. Lappin, who lost much of his personal fortune when the Madoff fraud was exposed but spent $5 million of his own money to restore the retirement savings of employees at his company whose 401(k)s had been managed by Madoff's firm. When asked why, Lappin simply said: "I wanted to do the right thing. And I feel I've done the right thing, and that to me is my reward."
Massachusetts General Receives $100 Million to Create Institute to Find AIDS Vaccine (2/05/09)
Former Citigroup Chair Accelerates Pledge to Weill Cornell Medical College (4/08/09)
South Dakota Philanthropist Completes $400 Million Commitment to Improve Public Health (4/09/09)
Habitat for Humanity Receives $100 Million Commitment From Board Chair (5/15/09)
Massachusetts Philanthropist Restores Employee Nest Eggs Lost in Madoff Scandal (7/17/09)
Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation Announces $100 Million Underwriting Guarantee to Help Reopen Martin Luther King, Jr. Hospital (11/02/09)
Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards $125 Million for Global Road Safety Initiative (11/19/09)
Arts Patron Pledges $85 Million to Support Cincinnati Arts Groups (12/19/09)