Rockefeller Foundation

SOURCE:  Wikipedia, captured 2020-08-10

  • Founded: 1913
  • Founders: John D. Rockefeller  |  John D. Rockefeller Jr.  |  Frederick Taylor Gates
  • Type: Non-operating private foundation (IRS exemption status): 501(c)(3)
  • Location: New York City, New York, U.S.
  • Method: Endowment
  • Key people: Rajiv Shah (President)
  • Endowment (2016): $4.1 billion
  • Website:

    The Rockefeller Foundation is a private foundation based at 420 Fifth Avenue, New York City. It was established by the six-generation Rockefeller family. The Rockefeller Foundation was started by Standard Oil owner John D. Rockefeller Sr., along with his son John D. Rockefeller Jr., and John D. Rockefeller Sr.'s principal oil and gas business and philanthropic advisor, Frederick Taylor Gates, in New York State on May 14, 1913, when its charter was formally accepted by the New York State Legislature.

    As of 2015, the Rockefeller Foundation was ranked as the 39th largest U.S. foundation by total giving. By year end 2016, assets were tallied at $4.1 billion (unchanged from 2015), with annual grants of $173 million.

    According to the OECD, the Rockefeller Foundation provided $USD 107.2 million for development in 2018.


    On January 5, 2017, the board of trustees announced the unanimous selection of Dr. Rajiv Shah to serve as the 13th President of the Rockefeller Foundation. Shah became the youngest person, at 43, and first Indian-American to serve as President of the Rockefeller Foundation. He assumed the position March 1 2017 -- succeeding Judith Rodin who served as president for nearly twelve years and announced her retirement, at age 71, in June 2016. Rodin in turn had succeeded Gordon Conway in 2005. A former President of the University of Pennsylvania, Rodin was the first woman to head the Rockefeller Foundation.


    Rockefeller's interest in philanthropy and Public Relations began in 1904, influenced by Ida Tarbell's book published about Standard Oil crimes, "The History of the Standard Oil Company," which prompted him to whitewash the Rockefeller image.

    His initial idea to set up a large-scale foundation occurred in 1901, but it was not until 1906 that John D. Rockefeller Sr.'s famous business and philanthropic advisor, Frederick Taylor Gates, seriously revived the idea, saying that Rockefeller's fortune was rolling up so fast his heirs would "dissipate their inheritances or become intoxicated with power", unless he set up "permanent corporate philanthropies for the good of Mankind".

    It was also in 1906 that the Russell Sage Foundation was established, though its program was limited to working women and social ills. Rockefeller's would thus not be the first foundation in America (Benjamin Franklin was the first to introduce the concept), but it brought to it unprecedented international scale and scope. In 1909 he signed over 73,000 shares of Standard Oil of New Jersey, valued at $50 million, to the three inaugural trustees, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Gates and Harold Fowler McCormick, the first installment of a projected $100 million endowment.

    They applied for a federal charter for the foundation in the US Senate in 1910, with at one stage John D. Rockefeller Jr. even secretly meeting with President William Howard Taft, through the aegis of Senator Nelson Aldrich, to hammer out concessions. However, because of the ongoing (1911) antitrust suit against Standard Oil at the time, along with deep suspicion in some quarters of undue Rockefeller influence on the spending of the endowment, the end result was that John D. Rockefeller Sr. and Gates withdrew the bill from Congress in order to seek a state charter.

    On May 14, 1913, New York Governor William Sulzer approved a state charter for the foundation -- two years after the Carnegie Corporation -- with John D. Rockefeller Jr. becoming the first president. With its large-scale endowment, a large part of John D. Rockefeller Sr.'s fortune was insulated from inheritance taxes. The total benefactions of both him and John D. Rockefeller Jr. and their philanthropies in the end would far surpass Carnegie's endowments, his biographer Ron Chernow states, ranking Rockefeller as "the greatest philanthropist in American history."

    Early grants and connections

    The first secretary of the Rockefeller Foundation was Jerome Davis Greene, the former secretary of Harvard University, who wrote a "memorandum on principles and policies" for an early meeting of the trustees that established a rough framework for the Rockefeller Foundation's work. On December 5, the Board made its first grant of $100,000 to the American Red Cross to purchase property for its headquarters in Washington, D.C. At the beginning the Rockefeller Foundation was global in its approach and concentrated in its first decade entirely on the sciences, public health and medical education.

    It was initially located within the family office at Standard Oil's headquarters at 26 Broadway, later (in 1933) shifting to the GE Building (then RCA), along with the newly named family office, Room 5600, at Rockefeller Center; later it moved to the Time-Life Building in the Center, before shifting to its current Fifth Avenue address.

    In 1913 the Rockefeller Foundation set up the International Health Commission (later Board), the first appropriation of funds for work outside the US, which launched the Rockefeller Foundation into international public health activities. This expanded the work of the Sanitary Commission worldwide, working against various diseases in fifty-two countries on six continents and twenty-nine islands, bringing international recognition of the need for public health and environmental sanitation. Its early field research on hookworm, malaria, and yellow fever provided the basic techniques to control these diseases and established the pattern of modern public health services.

    The Commission established and endowed the world's first school of Hygiene and Public Health, at Johns Hopkins University, and later at Harvard, and then spent more than $25 million in developing other public health schools in the US and in 21 foreign countries -- helping to establish America as the world leader in medicine and scientific research. In 1913 it also began a 20-year support program of the Bureau of Social Hygiene, whose mission was research and education on birth control, maternal health and sex education.


    In the interwar years, the Rockefeller Foundation's support of public health, nursing, and social work in Eastern and Central Europe was a concentrated effort to advance medicine and create a global network of medical research. After the war, it sent a team to West Germany to investigate how it could become involved in reconstructing the country. They focused on restoring democracy, especially regarding education and scientific research, with the long-term goal of reintegrating Germany to the Western world.

    China Medical Board

    In 1914, the Rockefeller Foundation set up the China Medical Board, which established the first public health university in China, the Peking Union Medical College, in 1921; this was subsequently nationalised when the Communists took over the country in 1949. In the same year it began a program of international fellowships to train scholars at the world's leading universities at the post-doctoral level; a fundamental commitment to the education of future leaders.

    Department of Industrial Relations

    Also in 1914, the trustees set up a new Department of Industrial Relations, inviting William Lyon Mackenzie King to head it. He became a close and key advisor to John D. Rockefeller Jr. through the Ludlow Massacre, turning around his attitude to unions; however the Rockefeller Foundation's involvement in IR was criticized for advancing the family's business interests. The Rockefeller Foundation henceforth confined itself to funding responsible organizations involved in this and other controversial fields, which were beyond the control of the Rockefeller Foundation itself.


    During the late-1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation created the Medical Sciences Division, which emerged from the former Division of Medical Education. The division was led by Dr. Richard M. Pearce until his death in 1930, to which Alan Gregg to succeeded him until 1945. During this period, the Division of Medical Sciences was known for making large contributions to research across several fields of psychiatry. The 1930s was one of the most prominent decades in Rockefeller Foundation philanthropy to psychiatric research, as the Rockefeller Foundation set a goal to find, train, and encourage scholars for research and practice. One of the first large contributions from the Rockefeller Foundation to psychiatric research was in 1935, with the appropriation of $100,000 to the Institute for Psychoanalysis in Chicago. This grant was renewed in 1938, with payments extending into the early-1940s.

    Social sciences

    Through the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial (LSRM), established by John D. Rockefeller Sr. in 1918 and named after his wife, the Rockefeller fortune was for the first time directed to supporting research by social scientists. During its first few years of work, the LSRM awarded funds primarily to social workers, with its funding decisions guided primarily by John D. Rockefeller Jr.. In 1922, Beardsley Ruml was hired to direct the LSRM, and he most decisively shifted the focus of Rockefeller philanthropy into the social sciences, stimulating the founding of university research centers, and creating the Social Science Research Council. In January 1929, LSRM funds were folded into the Rockefeller Foundation, in a major reorganization.

    John D. Rockefeller Jr. became the Rockefeller Foundation chairman in 1917. One of the many prominent trustees of the institution since has been C. Douglas Dillon, the United States Secretary of the Treasury under both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.


    Beginning in 1930 the Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics, which later inspired and conducted eugenics experiments in the Third Reich.

    The Rockefeller Foundation funded Nazi racial studies even after it was clear that this research was being used to rationalize the demonizing of Jews and other groups. Up until 1939 the Rockefeller Foundation was funding research used to support Nazi racial science studies at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics (KWIA.) Reports submitted to Rockefeller did not hide what these studies were being used to justify, but Rockefeller continued the funding and refrained from criticizing this research so closely derived from Nazi ideology. The Rockefeller Foundation did not alert "the world to the nature of German science and the racist folly" that German anthropology promulgated, and Rockefeller funded, for years after the passage of the 1935 Nuremberg racial laws.

    The Rockefeller Foundation, along with the Carnegie Institution, was the primary financier for the Eugenics Record Office, until 1939.

    Harvard International Seminars

    The Rockefeller Foundation also supported the early initiatives of Henry Kissinger, such as his directorship of Harvard's International Seminars (funded as well by the Central Intelligence Agency) and the early foreign policy magazine Confluence, both established by him while he was still a graduate student.

    Programs: Scale and scope

    Through the years the Rockefeller Foundation has expanded greatly in scope. Historically, it has given more than $14 billion in current dollars to thousands of grantees worldwide and has assisted directly in the training of nearly 13,000 Rockefeller Fellows.

    Its overall philanthropic activity has been divided into five main subject areas:

    In the 1920s, the Rockefeller Foundation started a program to eradicate hookworm in Mexico. The program exemplified the time period's confidence in science as the solution for everything. This reliance on science was known as scientific neutrality. The Rockefeller Foundation program stated that there was a crucial correlation between the world of science, politics and international health policy. This heavy reliance of scientific neutrality contradicted the hookworm program's fundamental objective to invest in public health in order to develop better social conditions and to establish positive ties between the United States and Mexico. The Hookworm Campaign set the terms of the relationship between Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation that persisted through subsequent programs including the development of a network of local public health departments. The importance of the hookworm campaign was to get a foot in the door and swiftly convince rural people of the value of public health work. The roles of the Rockefeller Foundation's hookworm campaign are characteristic of the policy paradoxes that emerge when science is summoned to drive policy. The campaign in Mexico served as a policy cauldron through which new knowledge could be demonstrated applicable to social and political problems on many levels.

    A major program beginning in the 1930s was the relocation of German (Jewish) scholars from German universities to America. This was expanded to other European countries after the Anschluss occurred; when war broke out it became a full-scale rescue operation. Another program, the Emergency Rescue Committee was also partly funded with Rockefeller money; this effort resulted in the rescue of some of the most famous artists, writers and composers of Europe. Some of the notable figures relocated or saved (out of a total of 303 scholars) by the Rockefeller Foundation were Thomas Mann, Claude Lévi-Strauss and Leó Szilárd, enriching intellectual life and academic disciplines in the US. This came to light afterwards through a brief, unpublished history of the Rockefeller Foundation's program.

    Another significant program was its Medical Sciences Division, which extensively funded women's contraception and the human reproductive system in general. Other funding went into endocrinology departments in American universities, human heredity, mammalian biology, human physiology and anatomy, psychology, and the studies of human sexual behavior by Dr. Alfred Kinsey.

    In 1950 the Rockefeller Foundation mounted a major program of virus research, establishing field laboratories in Poona, India; Port of Spain, Trinidad; Belém, Brazil; Johannesburg, South Africa; Cairo, Egypt; Ibadan, Nigeria; and Cali, Colombia. In time, major funding was also contributed by the countries involved, while in Trinidad the British government and neighbouring British-controlled territories also assisted. Sub-professional staff were almost all recruited locally and, wherever possible, local people were given scholarships and other support to be professionally trained. In most cases, locals eventually took over management of the facilities. Support was also given to research on viruses in many other countries. The result of all this research was the identification of a huge number of viruses affecting humans, the development of new techniques for the rapid identification of viruses, and a quantum leap in our understanding of arthropod-borne viruses.

    In the arts it has helped establish or support the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada, and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Connecticut; Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.; Karamu House in Cleveland, Ohio; and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. In a recent shift in program emphasis, President Rodin eliminated the division that spent money on the arts, the creativity and culture program. One program that signals the shift was the Rockefeller Foundation's support as the underwriter of Spike Lee's documentary on New Orleans, When the Levees Broke. The film has been used as the basis for a curriculum on poverty, developed by the Teachers College at Columbia University for their students.

    Thousands of scientists and scholars from all over the world have received Rockefeller Foundation fellowships and scholarships for advanced study in major scientific disciplines. In addition, the Rockefeller Foundation has provided significant and often substantial research grants to finance conferences and assist with published studies, as well as funding departments and programs, to a vast range of foreign policy and educational organizations, including the following.

    Notable programs

    The Rockefeller Foundation has accomplished some notable achievements, such as the following.

    The Rockefeller Foundation also funded several infamous projects.

    The Green Revolution

  • Main article: Green Revolution

    Agriculture was introduced to the Natural Sciences division of the Rockefeller Foundation in the major reorganization of 1928. In 1941, the Rockefeller Foundation gave a small grant to Mexico for maize research, in collaboration with the then new president, Manuel Ávila Camacho. This was done after the intervention of Vice-President Henry Wallace and the involvement of Nelson Rockefeller; the primary intention being to stabilise the Mexican Government and derail any possible communist infiltration, in order to protect the Rockefeller family's investments.

    By 1943 this program, under the Rockefeller Foundation's Mexican Agriculture Project, had proved such a success with the science of corn propagation and general principles of agronomy that it was exported to other Latin American countries; in 1956 the program was then taken to India; again with the geopolitical imperative of providing an antidote to communism. It wasn't until 1959 that senior Rockefeller Foundation officials succeeded in getting the Ford Foundation (and later USAID, and later still, the World Bank) to sign on to the major philanthropic project, known now to the world as the Green Revolution. It was originally conceived in 1943 as CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico. It also provided significant funding for the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Part of the original program, the funding of the IRRI was later taken over by the Ford Foundation. The International Rice Research Institute and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center are part of a consortium of agricultural research organizations known as CGIAR.

    Costing around $600 million, over 50 years, the revolution brought new farming technology, increased productivity, expanded crop yields and mass fertilization to many countries throughout the world. Later it funded over $100 million of plant biotechnology research and trained over four hundred scientists from Asia, Africa and Latin America. It also invested in the production of transgenic crops, including rice and maize. In 1999, the then president Gordon Conway addressed the Monsanto Company board of directors, warning of the possible social and environmental dangers of this biotechnology, and requesting them to disavow the use of so-called terminator genes; the company later complied.

    In the 1990s, the Rockefeller Foundation shifted its agriculture work and emphasis to Africa; in 2006 it joined with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in a $150 million effort to fight hunger in the continent through improved agricultural productivity. In an interview marking the 100 year anniversary of the Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin explained to This Is Africa that Rockefeller has been involved in Africa since their beginning in three main areas -- health, agriculture and education, though agriculture has been and continues to be their largest investment in Africa.

    Bellagio Center

    The Rockefeller Foundation also owns and operates the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. The Center comprises several buildings, spread across a 50-acre (200,000 m2) property, on the peninsula between lakes Como and Lecco in Northern Italy. The Center is sometimes colloquially referred to as the Villa Serbelloni. The Villa is only one of the many buildings in which residents and conference participants are housed. The property was bequeathed to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1959 under the presidency of Dean Rusk (who was later to become U.S. President Kennedy's secretary of state). The Bellagio Center operates both a conference center and a residency program. The residency program is a highly competitive program to which scholars, artists, writers, musicians, scientists, policymakers and development professionals from around the world can apply to work on a project of their own choosing for a period of four weeks. The essence of the program is the synergy obtained by the interaction between people coming from the most diverse backgrounds. Numerous Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners, National Book Award recipients, Prince Mahidol Award winners and MacArthur fellows, as well as several acting and former heads of State and Government, have been in residence at Bellagio.

    Rockefeller Foundation Communication for Social Change Network

    The network is enabled by the Rockefeller Foundation for collaboration between experts and communication professionals that include grassroots/community-based and international non-governmental organizations, as well as multilateral and bilateral entities. Its involvement in AIDS prevention, was based on promoting deep-rooted social changes that stem from informed and inclusive public engagement. However, it recognized that wide-scale educational campaigns focused on altering individual behavior played a critical role.

    The strategy and principles linked with the network are listed below.

    100 Resilient Cities

    In December 2013, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, which is dedicated to promoting urban resilience, defined as "the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience."

    Through its program, 100 Resilient Cities offers cities the following resources.

    A total of 100 cities across six continents are part of the program, as of May 2016. All 100 cities have developed individual City Resilience Strategies with technical support from a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The CRO ideally reports directly to the city's chief executive and helps coordinate all the resilience efforts in a single city.

    In January 2016, The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development announced winners of its National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), awarding three 100RC member cities -- New York, NY; Norfolk, VA; and New Orleans, LA -- with more than $437 million in disaster resilience funding. The grant was the largest ever received by the city of Norfolk.

    Cultural Innovation Fund

    The Cultural Innovation Fund is a pilot grant program that is overseen by Lincoln Center for the Arts. The Rockefeller Foundation selected Lincoln Center to administer the fund based on the institutions steady track record in creating community based partnerships and implementing art based programs. The grants are to be used towards innovative ideas that would bring art access and foster cultural opportunities in the underserved areas of Brooklyn and the South Bronx with three overarching goals.

    Family involvement

    The Rockefeller family helped lead the Rockefeller Foundation in its early years, but later limited itself to one or two representatives, to maintain the Rockefeller Foundation's independence and avoid charges of undue family influence. These representatives have included the former president John D. Rockefeller III, and then his son John D. Rockefeller, IV, who gave up the trusteeship in 1981. In 1989, David Rockefeller's daughter, Peggy Dulany, was appointed to the board for a five-year term.

    In October 2006, David Rockefeller, Jr. joined the board of trustees, re-establishing the direct family link and becoming the sixth family member to serve on the board. By contrast, the Ford Foundation has severed all direct links with the Ford family.

    Stock in the family's oil companies is a major part of the Rockefeller Foundation's assets, beginning with Standard Oil and now with its corporate descendants, including Exxon Mobil.

    Historical legacy

    The second-oldest major philanthropic institution in America, after the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation's impact on philanthropy in general has been profound. It has supported United Nations programs throughout its history, such as the recent First Global Forum On Human Development, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1999.

    The early institutions it set up have served as models for current organizations: the UN's World Health Organization, set up in 1948, is modeled on the International Health Division; the U.S. Government's National Science Foundation (1950) on its approach in support of research, scholarships and institutional development; and the National Institute of Health (1950) imitated its longstanding medical programs.

    Current trustees

    As of July 27, 2020:

    Past trustees


    Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation are currently the subject of a $1 billion lawsuit from Guatemala for "roles in a 1940s U.S. government experiment that infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis. A previous suit against the United States government was dismissed in 2011 for the Guatemala syphilis experiments when a judge determined that the U.S. government could not be held liable for actions committed outside of the U.S.

    The Rockefeller Foundation was also accused of planning the COVID-19 outbreak by Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne in a 2020 sermon .

    The Pastor claimed that the 2010 document: Scenarios For The Future of Technology & International Development was a blueprint for the foundations plan to cause a planned worldwide pandemic. There are four scenarios within the document including: Clever Together, Smart Scramble, Hack Attack and Lockstep. Pastor Howard-Brown claimed that the Lockstep scenario was actually a nefarious plan by the Rockefeller family to create an artificial pandemic. There are also claims that the Rockefeller Foundation is working toward reducing the human population based on the Rockefeller Foundation's connection with Family planning and the Population Council.



  • The Rockefeller Family Fund has received $685,000 from the Bauman Foundation, while Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors has received $3.60 million from the Bauman Foundation:

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