The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

Analysis of the year's biggest philanthropists.
Feb. 15 2007 11:26 PM

The 2006 Slate 60: Donations

The 60 largest American charitable contributions of the year.

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Peter S. and Helen Bing—$50.5 million toStanford University and Johns Hopkins University. Peter Bing, 72, a real-estate developer, private investor, and physician, and his wife, Helen, pledged $50 million to Stanford University to pay for construction costs for a new concert hall as part of the university's planned performing-arts center. Dr. Bing earned a bachelor's degree at the university in 1955 and serves on its board. The couple previously supported Stanford with gifts to benefit the university library, the endowment of the Bing Stanford in Washington Program, and the Bing Overseas Studies Programs. Neither the university nor the Bings would say how much they have given in the past. The couple also gave $500,000 to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to support prostate-cancer research. Dr. Bing is a member of the Johns Hopkins Prostate Cancer Advisory Board.

Geoffrey Beene—$44 million to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Beene, fashion designer and founder of Geoffrey Beene Inc., who died of cancer in 2004 at age 80, left a $44 million gift to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. The gift will establish a medical facility to be named the Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center, which will focus on ways to translate scientific discoveries into practical applications. The charities Beene designated as beneficiaries of his will announced his gifts over the span of more than a year. As a result, Beene's bequests of $10 million apiece to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Medical Center in New York were counted as part of last year's top-donors list, on which Beene was ranked No. 57.


Jonathan M. Tisch—$40 million to Tufts University. Tisch, 53, co-chairman of Loews Corporation, a holding company, and chief executive of Loews Hotels in New York, gave $40 million to Tufts University in Medford, Mass., to endow the College of Citizenship and Public Service, which was renamed after him in honor of his gift. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science at Tufts in 1976. Tisch has been a university trustee for more than 18 years and serves as co-chairman of the university's capital campaign to raise $1.2 billion by 2010. He also gave $47,500 to Tufts' annual fund.

Jack and Marie Lord—$40 million tothe Hawaii Community Foundation. Jack Lord, an actor who starred in the television crime drama Hawaii Five-0 and who died in 1998 at age 77, and his wife, Marie, who died in 2005, bequeathed approximately $40 million—their entire estate—to the Hawaii Community Foundation in Honolulu. The money will establish an endowment the Lords wanted to create specifically to help support 12 nonprofit groups, most of which are in Honolulu. The groups are the Association for Retarded Citizens in Hawaii, which helps mentally disabled people live independently; the Bishop Museum, a natural- and cultural-history museum; Eye of the Pacific Guide Dogs; the Hawaiian Humane Society; the Hawaii Lions Eye Foundation, which operates an eye-tissue donor bank; Hawaii Public Television Foundation; the Honolulu Academy of Arts; Hospice Hawaii; the Salvation Army, Hawaii Division; St. Francis Hospice Care Center; the United Service Organizations of Hawaii, a group that provides entertainment to military personnel and services to military families; and the Variety School of Hawaii, which serves children with learning disabilities. Last year, the groups received between $28,000 and $97,000 from the endowment. Most of the couple's assets were in stocks, bonds, and real estate, and earnings from the bequest are expected to generate about $1.6 million a year. Each one of the dozen groups could eventually receive as much as $32,000 to $340,000 a year from the endowment, depending on investment performance, said officials at the foundation. Foundation officials described the Lords, who lived on the island of Oahu, as private people who believed personal philanthropy was crucial to preserving the quality of life on the Hawaiian islands.

Theodore (Ted) and Vada Stanley—$38.1 million to the Stanley Medical Research Institute. Ted Stanley, 75, founder of MBI, a Norwalk, Conn., company that develops and markets collectible items, and his wife, Vada, 73, paid $37 million of their $72 million pledge to the Stanley Medical Research Institute in Chevy Chase, Md. The money will be used to support research on the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. The Stanleys helped establish the foundation in 1989. In addition, the Stanleys donated a total of $1.1 million to more than two dozen nonprofit groups, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Prince of Wales Arts & Kids Foundation in London.

Sanford I. (Sandy) Jr. and Joan H. Weill—$37.6 million to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, the National Academy Foundation, the Touch Foundation, the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the Weill Charitable Foundation. Weill, 73 and a retired chairman of Citigroup in New York, and his wife, Joan, donated $37.6 million to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Hebrew Home for the Aged at Riverdale, the National Academy Foundation, the Touch Foundation, and the Weill Charitable Foundation, all in New York, as well as the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, in Ann Arbor. The donations were a combination of stock and cash gifts, and all were paid in full, though Sandy Weill declined to say how much individual organizations received. He gave most of his money as challenge grants, which required groups to raise an equal amount of money from other sources. Weill said the common thread through his donations was education, defined broadly as improving and informing the public. "What we do in science and medical research also includes education," he said, and he classified arts organizations in the same way. Another common thread was that, in addition to their wealth, the Weills donated much of their time to the organizations they support, often by serving on boards of directors. "We believe philanthropy is not just about money," said Weill, "but about ideas and being willing to devote time and brain power."

Gilbert D. and Jaylee M. Mead
Gilbert D. and Jaylee M. Mead

Gilbert D. and Jaylee M. Mead—$32.9 million to Arena Stage and the Signature Theatre. Gilbert Mead, 76, a retired research scientist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Md., and heir to the Consolidated Papers fortune, and Jaylee Mead, 77 and retired as associate chief of the Space Data and Computing Division at Goddard, paid $31 million of their $35 million pledge to Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Most of the money will be used to upgrade and refurbish the theater company's performance spaces, offices, and shops and to build a theater campus with classrooms and rehearsal space. The remaining $5 million will be used to match any gift from an Arena trustee. The Meads gave the theater an additional $175,000 last year to sponsor a production of Cabaret. The couple also paid $700,000 of a $1 million pledge to Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va. The Meads gave Signature an additional $75,000 to sponsor a production of Into the Woods as the show that was the first to be produced in the new facility. In addition, the Meads gave $949,922 to the Community Foundation of South Wood County, in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., where Gilbert Mead was born and raised.

Eugenia J. Dodson—$35.6 million to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, which supports diabetes research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dodson, who died in 2005 at age 100, invested money left to her by her late husband. She bequeathed $23.5 million to the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, in Hollywood, Fla., for diabetes research at the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine. She also left $12.1 million to the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for cancer research. Dodson specified in her will that her money was to be spent on research aimed at finding cures for diabetes and cancer. Her two brothers died from complications related to diabetes, and Dodson survived a bout of lung cancer long before she died. Dodson, a former beauty-salon owner, was the widow of J. Enloe Dodson, a civil engineer who owned a partial interest in a limestone quarry in Oolitic, Ind. He left Ms. Dodson about $200,000 when he died in 1949, and she invested that money. Together, the donations make up the bulk of her estate.

Ming Hsieh—$35 million to the University of Southern California School of Engineering. Hsieh, 50, founder of Cogent, a technology firm in Pasadena, Calif., that specializes in sophisticated identification systems including fingerprinting, gave $35 million to the University of Southern California's Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles to coincide with the 100th anniversary of its electrical-engineering program. Hsieh (pronounced "shee") graduated from the university in 1984 with a master's degree in electrical engineering after earning his bachelor's degree in the same field a year earlier. In exchange for this gift, his first to the university, the department has been renamed in his honor. Born on a rice farm in northern China, Hsieh grew up very poor. As a child, he constructed small radios and televisions from spare parts, according to a university spokesman. His interest in electronics was stoked by an uncle, and Hsieh emigrated to the United States to attend college after coming into an inheritance. He recently became a naturalized U.S. citizen.