The Slate60

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

36. ROBERT G. MONDAVI$20 million to the AMERICAN CENTER FOR WINE, FOOD AND THE ARTS, an educational and cultural center that will break ground June 1 in Napa Valley, Calif. “This project is a culmination of my lifelong professional dream to create a center that will celebrate and study America’s unique contribution to food, wine, their history, and the arts and humanities,” said Mondavi, chairman of the Robert Mondavi Winery. In 1997, Mondavi made a $2 million challenge gift to restore the historic Theatre at the Opera House in downtown Napa.

36. RICHARD J. SOLOVE$20 million to OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, the second-largest gift the university has received. The gift supports work at a cancer hospital where cancer genetics research is conducted. The facility will be renamed the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The gift will be used to recruit researchers to expand the program. Solove’s involvement with James began in 1953, when his father was diagnosed with cancer. Solove befriended his father’s physician, Arthur James, and the two have worked to create a free-standing cancer hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Solove lobbied the state legislature to help fund the cancer hospital and later became a founding board member and ongoing supporter. ”I would like to think that what I’m doing is for humanity,” he said. ”I’d much rather be thought of as helping to cure cancer than to be thought of as a real-estate developer or a pharmacist.” Solove graduated from OSU’s pharmacy school. He is the managing partner of R. J. Solove & Associates, a real-estate development firm he founded in Columbus.

36. VERNE A. WILLAMAN$20 million to PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY to endow the deanship of the Eberly College of Science and Medicine and to augment endowments that Willaman established previously for professorships and scholarships. Willaman has given Penn State more than $27 million over the years, making him one of the schools most generous benefactors. Willaman is a 1951 alumnus and a member of the executive committee of Johnson & Johnson. He was president of Ortho Pharmaceutical Corp. from 1969 to 1976 and a director for Johnson & Johnson from 1977 to 1988. “I feel I owe Penn State something for all the good things it did for me,” he said. “My college training in chemistry was excellent and gave me a solid foundation for my career. Also, my parents were strong believers in education—my mother taught school for 40 years—and their beliefs have influenced my own values very strongly.”

36. MAIDA and GEORGE ABRAMS—a trove of 17th-century Dutch drawings worth as much as $20 million to the Fogg Art Museum at HARVARD UNIVERSITY (Mass.) from these Newton, Mass., residents. The 10 drawings include works by Rembrandt, Pieter Bruegel, and Adriaen van Ostade. “The reason this is going to a teaching museum rather than a repository is so students can hold these drawings in their hands and get the magic feeling from that,” said George Abrams, who graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and Harvard Law School in 1957. George Abrams’ interest in Dutch art began when, as a law student, he worked in the Netherlands for two summers. Over the years the Abramses have given nearly 100 drawings to the Fogg and also donated works to several other museums. George Abrams is a corporate attorney.

44. GREGORY C. CARR$18 million to HARVARD UNIVERSITY for a new research center focused on human rights policy at the university’s Kennedy School of Government. The new center will examine the policies and actions of governments, international organizations, and independent actors that affect the realization of human rights. The gift—the largest ever from a Kennedy School alumnus—includes an endowment for operating support, a professorship, and funds for facilities to be named the Carr Center. Greg Carr co-founded Boston Technology Inc. in 1986 and served as CEO and then chairman of the board. In 1996, he also became chairman of Prodigy Inc. of White Plains, N.Y., an Internet service provider. Earlier this year, Carr sold a portion of his interest in Prodigy and formed the Gregory C. Carr Foundation Inc. Carr said his interest in human rights started in 1995 when he met Chinese dissident Harry Wu. “There is a very personal moment when you think, ‘If I am going to be on this planet, and I am going to enjoy these rights, we have to get to work so everyone can enjoy them,’ ” Carr said.

44. GLORYA KAUFMAN$18 million to UCLA to renovate its dance facility. She is the widow of Donald Kaufman, co-founder of the construction firm Kaufman & Broad, and a longtime supporter of UCLA dance programs. “My hope is that students learn to communicate with each other and develop friendships and understanding through their studies in the World Arts and Cultures programs,” Kaufman said. “Dance and music are an international language. With it, we can touch everyone.”

46. ROBERT and JANICE McNAIR—$17.5 million to RICE UNIVERSITY (Texas) for the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management to finance new facilities and programs. The donation is one of the largest gifts from an individual to the college. Robert McNair, a University of South Carolina graduate, founded Cogen Technologies in 1984, a cogenerator of electricity. Earlier this year, Enron Corp. bought a majority of Cogen’s assets. Robert McNair is the franchise holder for Houston’s yet-to-be-named National Football League team. In 1998 the McNairs gave $22 million in gifts, $20 million to the University of South Carolina and $2 million to the South Carolina Aquarium.

47. ARTHUR M. BLANK FAMILY—as much as $15 million through the family foundation for a new ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA HALL in Atlanta. The family is also leading the campaign to name the building after legendary ASO conductor Robert Shaw. $10 million of the gift is outright and $5 million is a challenge, to be paid if three other $5 million donations can be found. The larger gift will include naming the hall’s grand lobby after the Blank family, including Arthur Blank’s mother, Molly Blank, who introduced her son to classical music when he was a teen-ager. The family also wants to find a way to honor Yoel Levi, ASO music director, whose contract is not being renewed beyond next season. Arthur Blank is co-founder of The Home Depot. Earlier this year he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he will donate at least 75 percent of his fortune to his family foundation. Blank said his wife and three grown children understand and support his intentions. “Our children need to climb their own mountains, and they want their own challenges.”

47. DORIS and JAY CHRISTOPHER$15 million to CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY, in River Forest, Ill., to construct a center that will consolidate the College of Education and its early-childhood laboratory school. Doris Christopher, CEO of the Pampered Chef, a company that sells kitchen tools, and her husband, Jay, also designated a portion of their gift for yet-to-be-determined capital needs.

47. RICHARD B. and JEANNE DONOVAN FISHER$15 million to BARD COLLEGE (N.Y.) for a new performing arts center designed by Frank O. Gehry. The gift will also support an endowment for operations and programming. Richard B. Fisher is chairman of the executive committee and director of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co. and a trustee of the college. He is also chairman of the boards of the Urban Institute and Rockefeller University and chairman of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Endowment Trust. 

Photograph of Glorya Kaufman courtesy of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA.