The ninth annual Slate 60.

Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 28 2005 5:29 AM

The Ninth Annual Slate 60

America's most generous philanthropists, and where they gave.

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As usual, athletes and entertainers are in short supply. One notable exception: TV megastar Oprah Winfrey. With a $50 million gift to her foundations for the support of educational programs for women and girls, Winfrey claims 24th place on the overall list (and 11th place ranking by amounts actually paid out rather than pledged by living donors).

We should give special mention to one exceptionally philanthropic family that failed to make the list. Donald E. and Violet Himebaugh finished 61st, just keeping them off the Slate 60.The Himebaughs bequeathed $16.3 million to the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region in Appleton, Wis. Donald Himebaugh had worked as an accountant and office manager for a grocery wholesaler in Appleton, and his wife was a Spanish teacher at a local high school. Apparently the Himebaughs amassed their fortune through careful saving and investment. Their final bequest, comprising their entire estate, followed upon earlier gifts to the foundation.

What, if anything, can be said about changes in the "quality" of Slate 60 giving? As noted when Slate first launched the competition, "the very notion of quality as applied to acts of philanthropy is suspect." Generosity speaks for itself. Still it is noteworthy that over the course of years, few big-scale philanthropists have been struck with path-breaking ideas for making the world a better place. Alma maters and other institutions of higher learning remain the most popular outlet for munificence (56 colleges and universities make the 2004 list) followed by private foundations (25) and hospitals and medical centers (18). Museums, libraries, and other groups dedicated to the arts are also popular.

The environment crops up here and there, including its appearance as part of the Buffett bequest. Especially notable, and earning the No. 6 place on the 2004 list, is Leo A. and Kay Drey's gift of 146,000 acres of Ozark land, valued at $180 million, to the L-A-D Foundation, which is charged with ensuring that the land is maintained in a sustainable and environmentally sound condition. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that the Dreys have lived in the same St. Louis house throughout their marriage and sent their children to local public schools, preferring to devote the wealth that Leo Drey derived from his father's glass company to a plethora of charitable causes. The Dreys have been willing to make long-term commitments to projects and to support low-profile efforts such as the Government Accountability Project, which keeps a sharp eye out for federal malfeasance. Also in the environmental category: a $70 million bequest by Sally Reahard (No. 16) to the Nature Conservancy, part of a total of $94.6 million that included bequests to other organizations devoted to historic and environmental preservation, as well as the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

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Monogrammed giving, i.e., the erection, expansion, or restoration of edifices to be named for the benefactors or their family members, is another perennial practice. Unfortunately, such gifts are not always accompanied by adequate long-term provision for future staffing and maintenance. And in the "coals-to-Newcastle" category last year one finds two hefty gifts to already amply endowed Harvard University ($30 million for a new endowment from Albert J. III and Celia Weatherhead and $25 million for its business school from Hansjoerg Wyss).

Some donors, however, are attentive to the less high-profile, but certainly no less welcome, need for maintenance of ongoing activities. Bill and Sue Gross, for example, in their $23.5 million grant to Duke University—part of a total $43.5 million in donations—thoughtfully earmarked some of their gifts for faculty support, perhaps freeing professors to devote more time to teaching and less to ceaseless grubbing for grants. Nancy B. and Charles T. Munger, (he's vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway) with whom the Grosses are tied for the No. 27 spot, directed their $43.5 million gift to Stanford to build new law-student housing.

A few off-the-beaten-path philanthropists, Oprah Winfrey and the Buffett foundations included, channel their generosity more along the lines of old-fashioned "charity." Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur M. Blank (No. 55) added some $18.9 million to the resources of his family foundation, which supports programs that assist low-income families. Like Turner himself, the Gates Foundation continues to invest heavily in the health and welfare of the developing world as well as in educational resources for less-fortunate parts of this country. Part of hedge-fund founder David Tepper and wife Marlene's $27 million gift to their private foundation will flow through to such organizations as CARE, Good Will Rescue Mission, and the Salvation Army. The Teppers gave an additional $55 million to Carnegie Mellon's Tepper School of Business, their total earning them the No. 17 place among the Slate 60.

A $17 million bequest by Ruth L. Kilton (tied at No. 58) will help Rhode Island's children, elderly, and animals. (Much of Kilton's fortune was built on Berkshire Hathaway stock.) And a fraction of the nearly $72 million in gifts from Paul G. Allen (No. 18 on the overall list and No. 8 counting only paid amounts by living donors), will go to unspecified health and human service organizations. But these are the exceptions. By and large, America's top donors avoid the difficult and often unrewarding business of dealing with the needy, preferring instead to put their stamp on more prominent features of the societal landscape.

Slate thanks the Chronicle of Philanthropy for compiling the Slate 60 again this year. We offer an especially grateful nod to editorial assistant Maria DiMento and editor Stacy Palmer for their able, and frequent, help, and to associate editor Marty Michaels for editing the list.

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