By Tony Spence
The Chronicle of Philanthropy this month focus on the most generous donors in American with short descriptions of the top 50 givers. The total the Philanthropy 50 gave in 2015 was an impressive $7 billion with the median gift being $91.1 million. That’s pretty generous.
In comparison, the annual budget last year for the state of Oklahoma was $7. 2 billion. With a few more shekels, these guys could have funded the entire state last year.
The largest gift — $758.9 million — came from the estate of Richard Mellon Scaife, the Mellon oil and banking heir, principally to his two family foundations.
Gonzaga University’s main building and statue of St. Aloysius Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. The university received $55 million from Myrtle Woldson, a Spokane businesswoman who died in 2014. (Gonzaga University photo)
But others, such as the second largest — $605 million from the estate of Texan John Santikos, owner of a large theater chain — was one of the “big bets” for social change, in his case to the San Antonio Area Foundation.
Donor recipients included medical and engineering research to improve lives. A Seattle self-made businessman, Donald Sirkin, left a $125 million bequest to the San Francisco-based Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an organization that had never raised more than $2 million in any year. Mr. Sirkin was losing his sight, and he wanted to make a big impact in one place. The gift will help Lighthouse finish its new headquarters and partner with tech companies to create products the blind can easily use.
Journalism got a boost from donors Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest. They gave $20 million to the non-profit he created, the Institute for Journalism in New Media. Lenfest started the organization when he turned the holding company for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com over to it a while back. According to the Chronicle the gift will support the three media and award grants to others.
Universities and education were big beneficiaries. They received $2.1 billion in 2015. And Catholic institutions got windfalls. New York financier Stephen Schwarzman and wife Christine have the eighth largest gift — $40 million – to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund to pay for disadvantaged students to attend Catholic school in the city.
Businesswoman and savvy investor Myrtle Woldson, who died in 2014, gifted $55 million to Gonzaga University for a performing arts center and threw in (Read More)