The 2004 Slate 60: Donations

Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 28 2005 5:26 AM

The 2004 Slate 60: Donations

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

Susan T. Buffett$2.55 billion to the Buffett Foundation, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Susan A. Buffett Foundation, and Spirit Foundation. Buffett, a director of Berkshire Hathaway, in Omaha, Neb., who died on July 29, 2004, at 72, left approximately $2.4 billion to the Buffett Foundation, in Omaha. Ms. Buffett was the wife of Warren E. Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's chairman and chief executive officer, and was the president of the foundation, which supports education, medical research, and efforts to curb population growth. She also left $50 million to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, in Decatur, Ill., which was founded by one of her two sons. The foundation supports wildlife and environmental causes and education and human services programs. Buffett gave $50 million to her daughter's fund, the Susan A. Buffett Foundation, in Omaha, which supports early childhood education for low-income families, the arts, reproductive health, and Christian organizations. She left an additional $50 million to the Spirit Foundation, in Omaha, which is run by her son Peter A. Buffett, and supports arts, education, and human service organizations. According to Susan Buffett's will, the money derives from 31,707 shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock that she owned at the time of her death. The exact amount of the gift to the Buffett Foundation will depend on changes in the value of the stock once Buffett's estate is settled later this year. Susan Buffett was the wife of Warren E. Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway's chairman and chief executive officer.

William H. (Bill) III and Melinda F. Gates

William H. (Bill) III and Melinda F. Gates $627 million to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates, 49, chairman and chief software architect of the Microsoft Corp., in Redmond, Wash., and his wife, Melinda, 39, paid $627 million toward a pledge of approximately $3.35 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Seattle. This most recent infusion of cash came from a Microsoft stock dividend that Bill Gates received in late 2004. (A profile of the Gates Foundation appeared in the Nov. 11, 2004, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.)


John M. Templeton$550 million to the John Templeton Foundation. Templeton, 92, a former international investor and mutual-funds manager, gave $550 million to the John Templeton Foundation, in West Conshohocken, Pa. The foundation supports research that focuses on the relationships between science and religion and spirituality and health, and, to a lesser degree, on programs that promote free enterprise and character development. Ninety percent of the gift was given in stock and 10 percent in cash. Templeton, who was born in Winchester, Tenn., was knighted in 1987 by Queen Elizabeth II for his accomplishments, including the creation of the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities.

Caroline Wiess Law$450 million to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Baylor College of Medicine; and University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Law, a Houston oil heiress and art collector who died on Dec. 24, 2003, at 85, left an estimated $400 million—nearly her entire estate—to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. A portion of the bequest includes 54 works of art collectively valued at approximately $30 million. The collection, which Law began amassing in the 1950s, includes major paintings by de Kooning, Miró, Picasso, and Rothko, as well as sculptures by Jean Arp and others. Law also gave the museum $165 million—$140 million of which came in the form of stock—to augment its operating and acquisitions endowments, and an additional $6 million in cash for the museum's general use. Sixty percent of the remaining money is designated for the operating endowment, and 40 percent will go to the acquisitions endowment. Law also left $25 million to the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, to endow a fund for academic programs, and $25 million to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, also in Houston, for two research programs in its Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. One program focuses on the prevention and early detection of colorectal cancer; the other takes a multidisciplinary approach to research on cancer prevention.

George D. Cornell$196 million to 62 organizations. Cornell, a retired banker who died in 2003 at 93, gave $93.3 million to Rollins College, in Winter Park, Fla., to support scholarships, endow the presidency, and finance professorships and academic programs. Cornell, who lived in Delray Beach, Fla., was a 1935 graduate of the college and a longtime trustee. He also made an unrestricted $50 million bequest to Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., which was established by one of his relatives, Ezra Cornell. Cornell gave $5.9 million to Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, to construct a building and establish a scholarship fund for the honors college in memory of his wife, Harriet, who died in 1999. Cornell's other large bequests included $5.4 million to Bethesda Hospital Foundation, in Boynton Beach, Fla., to create an institute for rehabilitation medicine, and $3.9 million to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, in Delray Beach, for its Japanese gardens. George Cornell was the son of Edward Cornell, a lawyer and director for the IBM Corp., and Esther Haviland Cornell, an heiress to the Haviland China fortune.

Leo A. and Kay K. Dreyland valued at $180 million to the L-A-D Foundation. Leo Drey, 88, a St. Louis businessman, and his wife, Kay, 71, donated Pioneer Forest to their L-A-D Foundation, in St. Louis. In 1951, Leo Drey purchased the first piece of land in the Missouri Ozarks that would ultimately grow to become Pioneer Forest, a 146,000-acre tract of land valued at $180 million. He founded and serves as chair of the L-A-D Foundation, which manages nearly 3,500 acres in Missouri. The foundation has agreed to keep the forest intact and to continue using environmentally sustainable forest-management techniques.

Pierre Omidyar

Pierre and Pam Omidyar $173 million to the Omidyar Network and other groups. Pierre Omidyar, 37, founder and chairman of eBay, the online auction site, and his wife, Pam, 37, founder and chairman of HopeLab in Palo Alto, Calif., which develops tools that use digital technology to help chronically ill children, gave $93.9 million to the nonprofit arm of the Omidyar Network, in Redwood City, Calif. The Omidyar Network is the successor to the Omidyar Foundation, which Pierre Omidyar closed in 2004; the network donates to charities and also supports businesses committed to social change. The couple co-founded the network, and Pierre Omidyar serves as its chief executive officer. The Omidyars also gave $57.8 million to community foundations and charities, and $21.4 million to nonprofit organizations for projects that focus on grass-roots media, microfinance, technology, and voting. (An article on Pierre Omidyar's philanthropy appeared in the April 15, 2004, issue of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.)



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