The Slate60

The 1999 Slate 60: The 60 largest American charitable contributions of 1999.

(Note: The list actually runs to 61. The last 15 contributors are tied at $15 million.)

1. BILL and MELINDA GATES—approximately $2.4 billion for 1999. This includes $40 million in the first quarter of the year; $245 million in the second quarter; $1.19 billion in the third quarter, and $956 million in the fourth quarter. (Some donations, such as gifts to libraries, were not included in this year’s total.) In addition to the $1 million-plus gifts, the Gateses gave more than $20 million in gifts and grants of less than $1 million each. Some of the 1999 gifts were: $1 billion to the UNITED NEGRO COLLEGE FUND (Va.) for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. … $55 million to the UNITED WAY OF KING COUNTY (Wash.), an 11-year grant to increase the amount of funds distributed to health and social services organizations. … $750 million to the GLOBAL FUND FOR CHILDREN’S VACCINES (Seattle), part of the Program for Appropriate Technologies in Health. … $20 million to the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY to construct the William H. Gates Building for the computer science and electronic engineering departments. … $50 million for the CAMPAIGN TO ERADICATE POLIO BY THE END OF THE YEAR 2000 (Geneva, Switzerland). … $1.5 million divided equally among the AMERICAN RED CROSS INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE FUND (Va.), CARE (Ga.), and the INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE (N.Y.) to aid Kosovo refugees. … $50 million over five years to COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY (N.Y.) for a program in the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health to reduce maternal deaths among women in developing countries by improving access to lifesaving treatment for women with serious obstetric problems. … $5 million to POPULATION SERVICES INTERNATIONAL (Washington, D.C.) to help African-American adolescents protect their reproductive health. … $25 million to RFSU, SWEDISH ASSOCIATION FOR SEX EDUCATION for male involvement, reproductive health, and HIV prevention. … $25 million to SEQUELLA GLOBAL TUBERCULOSIS FOUNDATION (Md.). … $10 million over five years to the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (Switzerland) for a special program of research, development, and research training in human reproduction. … $5 million to the COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF SILICON VALLEY (Calif.) for the United Way of Santa Clara County. … $4 million to the SEATTLE ART MUSEUM toward the purchase of the last remaining undeveloped property on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

2. JAMES H. CLARK$150 million to STANFORD UNIVERSITY to construct a biomedical-engineering center. The contribution, the largest single gift to Stanford since the founding grant and among the largest ever in higher education, will help build the James H. Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering and Sciences. It will also provide equipment for the facility, endow positions for faculty who will participate in the new effort, and fund graduate student fellowships. Clark founded Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon, and myCFO. He said he felt indebted to the university because as a Stanford professor in the early 1980s he was allowed to develop technologies that later brought him success in the private arena. He initiated discussions with university officials about a gift in October 1996. “I chose to do this because of my academic roots, and Stanford is a great place to do it. For me it’s important to know that a gift is going to get the best leverage it possibly can,” he said.

3. WARREN E. and SUSAN BUFFETT—a $134 million stock gift to four unnamed organizations. A spokeswoman at Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, would not divulge either the names of the organizations receiving shares or the amounts going to each. Warren Buffett has declined all interview requests about the gift.

4. KENAN E. SAHIN—a $100 million unrestricted gift to MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY from the founder of software company Kenan Systems. Last year Sahin sold the company to Lucent Technologies for $1.45 billion in stock. In announcing his donation to MIT’s $1.5 billion capital campaign, Sahin said, ”I can’t tell you how much I have benefited from this institution.” When Sahin was an engineering student at Robert College in Istanbul, he met the late Harold Hazen, then dean of graduate studies at MIT, who was acting as Robert’s interim president. On Hazen’s advice, Sahin attended MIT and the Sloan School of Management, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1963 and a doctorate in 1969. Sahin taught and conducted research at MIT, Harvard University, and the University of Massachusetts until 1982 when he abandoned academic life to try his luck at running a business of his own. With a $1,000 investment, he founded Kenan Systems. The company developed special software for telecommunications companies to use in billing and customer service.

4. R.E. “TED” TURNER$100 million to the UNITED NATIONS FOUNDATION (N.Y.)—the third year of his 10-year commitment to fund the organization. Turner is the founder of CNN and other media companies.

6. AUDREY JONES BECK—Forty-seven Impressionist and Postimpressionist paintings to the MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, HOUSTON. The museum would not disclose the value of the artworks, but experts have estimated their worth to be $80 million or more. The paintings, which include works by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Pierre Auguste Renoir, have been on display at the gallery since 1974, along with 23 other works previously donated to the museum by Beck and her late husband, John. Beck is the daughter of the late Jesse Jones, the oil and newspaper magnate who founded Houston Endowment, Texas’ largest philanthropic foundation.

7. FREDERICK A. and SHARON KLINGENSTEIN$75 million to MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE (N.Y.), the largest single gift in the school’s history. The gift will establish an institute devoted to scientific research and to further medical education through a new scholarship fund. Frederick Klingenstein, former chairman and a member of Mount Sinai’s boards of trustees, said the gift reflects his family’s longtime commitment to the Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The family has designated $50 million of the gift to establish the Klingenstein Institute for Medical Science devoted to research and $25 million to create the Joseph Klingenstein Scholarship Fund, named for Frederick Klingenstein’s late father who served as chairman of Mount Sinai’s boards of trustees. Frederick Klingenstein has been a member of the investment community for many years.

8. STEVE and MICHELLE KIRSCH$70 million to the COMMUNITY FOUNDATION OF SILICON VALLEY (Calif.) from the founder of Propel Software and former chair of Infoseek Corp., and his wife. Steve Kirsch is a member of the board of directors of the foundation. In 1999, the couple was named Outstanding Philanthropists of the Year by the Silicon Valley chapter of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives.

9. FRANK BATTEN SR.—$60 million to the UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA, in Charlottesville, for the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration. The amount is the largest ever given to a business school, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Plans call for the donation to support professorships, scholarships, a fellows program to bring business executives to the school, and a venture-capital fund that students can mine to test entrepreneurial projects. Those programs will be housed at the Batten Institute, the successor to the Batten Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which the media executive established with a $13.5 million gift in 1996. Batten is the retired chairman of Landmark Communications, an international media company with holdings that include the Virginian-Pilot newspaper and the Weather Channel. He graduated from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences in 1950.  

Photographs of: Bill and Melinda Gates by Jeff Christensen/Reuters; James H. Clark courtesy of Alexander Ogilvy Public Relations.