The largest U.S. charitable contributions of 2002.

Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 17 2003 9:57 AM

The 2002 Slate 60: Introduction

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of 2002.

The weak economy has even the country's most generous bigwigs keeping their pens in their pockets and their checkbooks shut. "The 2002 Slate 60," the annual list of charitable gifts and pledges from the country's top philanthropists, totaled $4.6 billion, less than half of 2001's total of $12.7 billion. The biggest reason for the drop was the dearth of billion-dollar gifts. This year's list features just one worth over a billion bucks while last year had three nine-zero mega-gifts.

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Walter H. Annenberg topped this year's list with a bequest of $1 billion worth of art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, plus an additional $375 million and a sprawling California estate that goes to his family foundation. Annenberg, who made his money in publishing, died in October at the age of 94.

Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune, came in at No. 2 with a $520 million pledge to various arts organizations, including a $100 million gift to Poetry magazine. (A gift that Slate described as well-meaning but "foolish.") At No. 3, Slate60 regular Thomas S. Monaghan, founder of Domino's Pizza, made a $220 million pledge to build and operate a Catholic university near Naples, Fla.

This year's Slate 60 uses the same methodology as 2001's: The complete list includes both donations and pledges. (Before 2001, we counted only paid gifts, which left off the folks who made generous pledges that were to be doled out in smaller increments.) The Chronicle of Philanthropy profiled the donors who gave $25 million or more as well as those who pledged the same amount. The Slate 60 doesn't count anonymous gifts.

In this economy, a dollar in the hand is worth a ten spot in the bush, so the the second and third donors on the paid-up list deserve special mention. Herchel Smith directed the bulk of his $187.7 million donation to Harvard and Cambridge universities. Dr. Smith, who died in December 2001 at 76, was a pharmaceutical researcher who developed the first birth-control pill. The $90 million slated for Cambridge is the largest gift by an individual to a public British university and will go mainly to beef up the school's science programs; stateside, Harvard will have to make do with $70 million. Lawyer-farmer-investment banker David A. Harrison III, 85, gave $122.5 million to his alma maters, the University of Virginia at Charlottesville and Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va.

Some Slate 60 regulars are missing this year. Chief among them are Bill and Melinda Gates, whose $2 billion gift to their foundation put them in the No. 2 spot in 2001. Bill Gates has appeared on The Slate 60 every year since we began the tallying the numbers back in 1996. The biggest of the big-time givers in 2001, Gordon and Betty Moore of Intel fame, also didn't make the cut in 2002. Last year their gifts totaled a whopping $6.13 billion.

The technology bubble's burst has changed the demographics of The Slate 60. In years past, techno whippersnappers' largess often led the pack. This year, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was the tech sector's top giver, coming in at No. 14 with a $73.7 million donation to his foundations. The next new media mogul comes in at No. 19: Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, and his wife, Pam, gave $48.25 million, the bulk of which goes to the Omidyars' foundation.

Other notables from this year: Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw (No. 51) ponied up $12 million to buy eight acres of undeveloped land in Brentwood, Calif., to protect it from development. Alfred B. Ford (of the automobile Fords, not the presidential variety) gave $10 million to help build the Temple of Vedic Planetarium in India to help keep the Hare Krishnas happy in this life and the next. Ford has been a member of the religious sect for more than 20 years, says the Chronicle. And remember Andrew Whittaker Jr. of Powerball fame? He made the No. 54 spot by giving away $10.3 million of his $170 million winnings.

Slate thanks the Chronicle of Philanthropy for its work, with a special shout-out to Ziya Serdar Tumgoren, who compiled the main list.

Laurie Snyder is Slate's copy chief.

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