Ann Castle, the cheerful dynamo behind “The Slate 60,” died suddenly last week as we stitched together the last details of the complete 1999 list. She was only 48.
There would be no Slate 60 without Ann. She was already a recognized authority on philanthropy—especially women and philanthropy—in 1996, when Ted Turner floated the idea of ranking philanthropists, Forbes 400-style. “These new super-rich won’t loosen up their wads because they’re afraid they’ll reduce their net worth and go down on the [Forbes 400] list,” he told the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd. The proper corrective, Turner said, was a list to honor the generous and shame the stingy.
Our search for such a list-builder quickly brought us to Ann, whose career in academic fund raising had taken her from Wellesley College to Harvard University and finally to Hamilton College, where she held the title of director of development research. At our request, she dipped into her database and produced the first Slate 60, which ran in December 1996. Ever since, we’ve run her quarterly and annual reports of America’s biggest givers.
Funerals, quite understandably, are times for pious lies. But it is no lie that Ann Castle was one of the most professional, enthusiastic, and dedicated reporters the Slate team has ever worked with. From our conversations with the editors of the Texas Monthly, where Ann also free-lanced, and the organizers of last fall’s White House philanthropy summit, where Ann was a key contributor, we’ve learned that our respect and affection for her were widespread.
Ann believed in philanthropy—all philanthropy. But she wasn’t a prig about it. On those occasions that an introduction to the Slate 60 written by Jodie T. Allen or me lampooned a tasteless, self-aggrandizing donor, Ann understood the journalistic purpose. Last month, when I informed her that we were augmenting the Slate 60 package with Arianna S. Huffington’s weighted list that completes the original Turner directive by shaming ineffective and self-serving givers, she responded positively. But Ann wouldn’t tolerate cynical talk about philanthropy: It was important to recognize and praise generosity, she would say. All generosity. Her devotion to public service and her sweet nature will be missed.
In the four years that Ann and Slate have been producing the list, it has become the definitive index of big-ticket American philanthropy. And, if we may be so bold, we think that the Slate 60 has made steady gains on the Forbes 400 as the club to which most fat cats would like to belong. Our only regret is that Ann won’t be with us to overtake the Forbes list. This edition of the Slate 60 is dedicated to her.
To learn more about Ann Castle and her work, visit her Women in Philanthropy Web site. Ann is survived by her husband, Richard Seager; her parents; and a sister. If you’d like to make a memorial contribution in her honor, the family has asked that it be directed to: Friends of the Smith College Libraries, Neilson Library, Northhampton, MA 01063.