Philanthropy makes the world a better place, one gift, bequest or donation at a time. Nowhere in the world is charitable giving more deeply embedded in the national culture than in the United States. In part, this is because an immigrant population wants to give back to the country that gave it refuge, security and sometimes wealth. Sharing some of that wealth can make it seem more legitimate—and its donor more respectable. But it is also certainly true that Americans are, by nature, generous individuals. The state, by and large, is not: it falls short of caring for its citizens in ways that many democracies have come to regard as an integral part of governance in the 21st century. The road from cradle to the grave costs individual U.S. citizens a lot more than it does their European counterparts.
Whether wealthy philanthropists, foundations and nonprofits should be expected to fill the gap left by a system that seems incapable of coming up with a medical program that doesn’t bankrupt its citizens, or a public school system that tolerates low national standards, or leaves guns in the hands of people that shouldn’t be trusted with even a broomstick is a matter for discussion.
The United States is a source of amazement to people in other countries for many reasons. Overall, their (often grudging) admiration at American generosity is one of the better reasons— even though philanthropy is sometimes a private effort to address what is largely a public shortcoming. Billionaire Robert Smith, the commencement speaker who pledged to pay off the student debt of the entire 2019 Morehouse College graduating class is both a hero and an inspiration to other philanthropists to do likewise—but he wouldn’t have had to do it if students weren’t burdened with enormous tuition debt in the first place.
In 2017, U.S. giving surged to a record $410.02 billion, according to an annual report by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “Even in divisive times, our commitment to philanthropy is solid,” the 2017 report concluded. By the end of 2019, the university estimates that U.S. giving will reach $425 billion, an increase of 3.4 percent.
Giving in the national capital region has increased along with most of the rest of the country. There are now 34 billionaires within a 25-mile radius of Washington, D.C. More than 2,000 Greater Washington area residents are worth around $30 million. Long established Washington philanthropists who have been fixtures on this list for years are joined by a cluster of newcomers who have ventured into this domain, to the benefit of the region. In her state of the city address in 2018, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser acknowledged a jump in generosity that’s helping the city’s neediest.
Nationwide, donations by individuals totaled $286 billion— 70 percent of all giving in 2017. When it comes to specific areas of giving, donations to religion were at the top of the 2017 list with $127.37 billion. Education was the second largest recipient at $58.9 billion. Environmental giving increased by 7.2 percent, but at $11.8 billion seemed likely to grow further, according to experts, amid rising concern over climate chaos and greenhouse gas emissions.
As Washington billionaire David Rubenstein is fond of telling audiences, philanthropy isn’t really about rich people signing checks. The Greek term means “love of mankind” and therefore embraces any help or kindness voluntarily given.
But the checks sure help.
For a man whose natural habitat is the kitchen, celebrity chef José Andrés sure gets around. This year he presented at the Academy Awards, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and went to the U.S.-Mexico border in California, where his philanthropic nonprofit World Central Kitchen (WCK) provided meals for refugees. Back in Washington, he created the #ChefsForFeds meal program to feed furloughed federal workers hit by the partial government shutdown. By the time the shutdown ended, Andrés had partnered with 400-plus restaurants in 35 states to provide 200,000 meals for federal workers facing hardships across the country. WCK has been active on the Venezuela-Colombia border as well as in Nebraska, Indonesia and Mozambique. In posthurricane Puerto Rico, the program Plow to Plate helps farmers, small businesses and community organizations in their recovery efforts, an investment commitment worth $4 million over the next five years. In interviews, Andrés has taken to using a slightly altered quote from John Steinbeck’s novel “The Grapes of Wrath”: “Whenever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, we will be there.”
The India-born founder and CEO of District-based software company Hunch Analytics is an active benefactor of both Washington and Indian causes and nonprofit groups. He is a leading supporter of the Global India Fund, and the Ukapav Indian-American Scholarship Foundation. In the U.S., the Bansal Foundation helps keep WAMU 88.5/American University on the air, and contributes to the Washington Humane Society, the Greater Washington Community Foundation and other city causes.
SIDNEY and SHERRIE BECKSTEAD
Co-owners of Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers, the Becksteads have focused their philanthropy on the Georgetown Lombardi Nina Hyde Breast Cancer Research Center, where Sherrie serves on the executive committee, and the Trust for the National Mall. Sherrie is a member of the Trust’s National Advisory Council and in December, the couple announced the launch of the Lockkeeper’s Collection, a limited-edition jewelry line benefitting the nonprofit partner of the National Park Service.
What started with a successful movie has become a lifetime of activism in maritime conservation, and a supporter for the work being done by marine scientists, researchers, explorers, and policymakers both in the United States and worldwide. The film, of course, was “Jaws,” based on her late husband’s best-selling novel. To honor his legacy, she co-founded the Peter Benchley Ocean Awards to honor environmental activists in 2008 and ran it until it was “retired” in 2018. But that was just one aspect of her abiding commitment to blue and green issues. Now a Washington resident, Benchley works with and supports many of the world’s leading ocean and environmental philanthropies. She is helping the Aspen Institute High Seas Initiative, is a member of the board of Shark Savers, and an advisory trustee of the Environmental Defense Fund. She is also a board member of Blue Frontier, a grassroots—or “seaweed,” as its website puts it—a group that links with 1,400 ocean organizations to protect marine wildlife and coastal communities.
The BERNSTEIN FAMILY
The Bernstein Family Foundation was started in Washington by real estate developer and banker Leo Bernstein in 1952, which makes it one of the oldest established charitable foundations in the nation’s capital. Administered by family members, including former Ambassador to Denmark Stuart Bernstein and his wife Wilma, the foundation is strongly Washington-oriented, focusing on American democracy, arts and culture and Jewish causes. Most recently, the Bernstein Foundation, led by executive director Ami Aronson, Leo’s granddaughter, has contributed to the restoration of the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial all the way to the Capitol and supported the Sasha Bruce Youthwork homeless shelter for runaway youth, the only one in the District. Stuart and Wilma’s daughter-in-law Tracy Bernstein is a director emeritus of Sasha Bruce and currently serves on the board of Alliance Française of Washington, D.C. In April, Georgetown University Hospital announced it was building the Bernstein Family Patient Care Floor for Neuroscience Excellence thanks to an “inspiring multimillion-dollar philanthropic investment from the Bernstein Family.”
In 2017, Bezos invited ideas from his Twitter followers for a short-term philanthropy strategy. More than a year—and a deluge of proposals—later, Bezos and his then-wife MacKenzie announced the creation of The Bezos Day One Fund with an initial endowment of $2 billion earmarked to advance pre-school education and help the homeless. One part of the fund goes “to launch and operate a network of high quality, Montessori inspired schools” in underserved communities, and to create the necessary organization to run them. The other part supports already existing groups helping the homeless. The then-couple also gave $10 million to a super PAC that supports veterans who are running for Congress. The Day One Fund was Bezos’ first philanthropic initiative even remotely commensurate with his worth, then estimated at $137 billion.
DAVID and KATHERINE BRADLEY
David Bradley sits at the center of a media group which includes the National Journal, the Hotline, and until recently Atlantic magazine. Katherine Bradley has described her main interest as “education philanthropy” and the thrust of the couple’s CityBridge Foundation is to engage with the city to reform the public school system, with the emphasis on creating more charter schools. CityBridge Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in grants, scholarships and donations, mostly to charter schools. The Bradleys have given more than $30 million to CityBridge, but the foundation also has some powerful backers, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Friends of Choice in Urban Education and The Walton Family Foundation. Katherine Bradley told the City Paper, “I have a strategic view about how to build a system of schools that will serve all children well.”
Buffy Cafritz, a major philanthropic and social presence in the nation’s capital for decades, contributes to numerous causes, now mostly through the Buffy and William Cafritz Family Foundation, which she and her late husband founded in 2006. She has donated individual artworks to the National Gallery of Art and underwritten exhibitions there, including those devoted to Luca della Robbia, Joan Miró and Andrea del Verrocchio (which opens in September). Cafritz recently augmented her longtime support of the Kennedy Center with a pledge of $300,000 to its new addition, The Reach. Among her other mainstays are the Library of Congress’ Madison Council support group and annual Gershwin Prize concert, the National Institute of Health (N.I.H.), the White House Historical Association, The Washington Ballet, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, the French American Cultural Foundation and various Catholic causes.
CALVIN and JANE CAFRITZ
Read our full interview, in “They Sing for More Than Their Supper – The “Cafritz” in the Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists Program”
STEVE and JEAN CASE
In his book “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future,” Steve Case asserts that the future of technology will be shaped by innovative start-ups all over the country, and not just in Silicon Valley. His philanthropic strategy is aimed at making this prediction a reality through Rise of the Rest, a program he launched in 2014 to target his capital at geographic areas outside Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. His philanthropy is aimed at helping people fulfill their dreams and ambitions. He is chairman and CEO of Revolution, a venture capital firm that supports start-ups leveraging technology and has, to date, backed 30 companies. Jean Case, who is chairman of the National Geographic Society, and CEO of the couple’s philanthropic foundation, just released her first book, “Be Fearless: Five Principles for a Life of Breakthrough and Purpose.” She calls it “a playbook for someone who really wants to go out and change the world” and profiles a number of overachievers.
The CECCHI FAMILY
“I have earned more than I need to live happily,” Giuseppe Cecchi told Catholic Charities in 2017, “I have to share it.” And the Italian born construction company owner has been doing just that, together with his Uruguayan-born wife Mercedes and family. The senior Cecchis have long been benefactors of the Children’s Hospital which saved the life of one of their infant sons 40 years ago. The Cecchi family also supports the Arlington Free Clinic, the Potomac School, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington and other local charities. Daughter-in-law Kristen, wife of son John Cecchi, has cochaired recent major social events, including the Georgetown Gala and the National Museum of Women in the Arts Gala and is co-chairing the upcoming National Portrait Gallery Gala.
COURTNEY CLARK PASTRICK
Clark Pastrick is chair of the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation, the source of her late parents’ philanthropic giving. Her father, Jim Clark, a Was hington construction business legend, had gained prominence as a philanthropist and a progressive employer even before his death in 2015, and Courtney Clark Pastrick has continued the family’s legacy in three main areas: engineering, education and veterans’ support. Clark’s estimated worth was listed at $1.6 billion in his obituaries, but he never forgot his debt to the University of Maryland, which he attended on an engineering scholarship. The Clark Scholars Program, begun in 2017, goes beyond his alma mater and supports undergraduate engineering students at Vanderbilt University, Johns Hopkins University, Stevens Institute, the Universities of Pennsylvania and Virginia, George Washington University and Virginia Tech. The most recent addition to the list was Duke University in 2018, with a $15 million donation for 10 scholarships each year. The University of Maryland has also benefited from a resounding $220 million multi-year bequest, the largest gift it has received to date.
WILLIAM and JOANNE CONWAY
The billionaire former co-CEO (and now co-executive chairman) of private equity firm the Carlyle Group announced in 2016 his intention of giving $1 billion to philanthropic causes and has been doing so in sizeable amounts with his wife Joanne. The couple’s Bedford Falls Foundation has so far contributed to a wide range of causes, but the special emphasis has been on the nursing profession in the Washington metropolitan area. The Conways recently gave The Catholic University of America the largest single gift in the university’s history with a $20 million donation to create the new Conway School of Nursing. The renaming of the nursing school recognizes the couple’s $40 million in total support. They have also given $15 million to the University of Maryland School of Nursing for student scholarships; $2.5 million to the Virginia Commonwealth School of Nursing; and $1 million to the Children’s National Health System for the Nursery Pathway Program that bears their name. But the Conways are also the main driver behind the now completed construction of the Conway Center, a complex of 200 units of affordable housing for the homeless in Washington under the umbrella of the interfaith charity SOME (So Others Might Eat).
DAN and GAYLE D’ANIELLO
One of the three cofounder s of the Carlyle Group, the big, District-based private equity firm, D’Aniello stepped down along with the two other founders, William Conway and David Rubenstein, in 2017. So far, he has not signed the Giving Pledge like David Rubenstein because the pledge only requires philanthropists to give away 50 percent of their wealth, which D’Aniello does not consider enough. “If you’re going to give away 50 percent of your wealth … c’mon, I’m going to do much more than that,” he once told the Washington Post. How much is more, however, is hard to figure. The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute was able to move into its own building on Massachusetts Avenue NW thanks to a $20 million gift from D’Aniello, and he is now its chairman. The D’Aniellos gave another $20 million to Syracuse University, Dan’s alma mater, for a National Veterans Resource Center to attract more vets to the university. He is also chairman of the Wolf Trap Foundation, which supports the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, and a major contributor to religion-based causes, mainly in the Catholic archdioceses of Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Va. “What’s in my mind is that I’m investing in people,” he says. “And the people I’m investing in are underprivileged or hold a core value that I believe in.”
ALAN and ASHLEY DABBIERE
Settling in Washington after sailing the Pacific for eight months in their $50 million, 200-foot yacht “Constance,” Dabbiere launched OneTrust, a privacy management software platform, of which he is co-chairman. The Dabbieres have also become active in Washington philanthropy. Alan is on the board of Inova Health System to which the Dabbieres have contributed over $1 million, and the Potomac School in McLean. Ashley has co-chaired several galas. The Dabbieres have gifted $7 million to fund cancer research at 12 academic institutions through the Loglio research consortium.
JACK DAVIES and KAY KENDALL
Last summer, Davies and Kendall screened the movie “Sleepless in Seattle” for a YMCA benefit at their summer home on Martha’s Vineyard and invited Meg Ryan, who also starred in “You’ve Got Mail,” to reminisce about her role in the 1993 romantic comedy. There’s a connection: Jack Davies was the founder and president of AOL International, which was the inspiration for the movie. Davies and Kendall focus the majority of their philanthropic activity in Washington, where they live. Davies is a strong supporter of the Maya Angelou charter schools, a member of the board of directors of Venture Philanthropy Partners (see Fernandez below), and on the board of Scholastic, and chaired the Teach for America Gala this year. Kendall, a former dancer herself, was for 25 years a board member of The Washington Ballet. She also serves on the board of THEARC and CityDance where she was appointed chair in 2018. She also chairs the D.C. Commission of the Arts and the Humanities and THEARC.
RICHARD and BETSY DeVOS
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her billionaire husband Dick, one of the principal heirs to the Amway product marketing fortune, have been making substantial contributions to civic, religious, arts, educational and free-market organizations (Hudson Institute, the Heritage Foundation) for nearly 30 years. One of his family’s five giving entities (the others were established by his parents and three siblings), the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation largely focuses its largesse in the city of Grand Rapids, Mich., where Amway is headquartered, and surrounding areas. Other recipients include the Thunderbird School of Global Management (scholarships), Princeton University and the Kennedy Center, which in 2010 received $22.5 million for the DeVos Institute of Arts Management to offer “practical training to arts managers and board members on stages of professional development in the United States and around the world.” The foundation more recently pledged $1 million to help fund The Reach, the Kennedy Center’s new immersive learning center.
DAMIR and AMRA FAZLIC
Damir Fazlic, a Bosnian educated at exclusive British institutions (Harrow School, London School of Economics, Cambridge) whom a few years ago Balkan media called “a fixer with powerful friends in Washington” has blossomed into a local philanthropist targeting some trendy arts causes. The Fazlics have contributed to the Kennedy Center’s multimillion The Reach extension project, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Washington Ballet, and Innocents at Risk, where his wife Amra, also Bosnian, is on the advisory board. Amra is sought after to chair galas, and has shared the honors at the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize and the 2018 National Women in the Arts Gala.
RAUL and JEAN-MARIE FERNANDEZ
Raul Fernandez, a successful hi-tech executive who sold his company Proxicom and later served on The Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the Obama administration, has a foundation with his wife Jean-Marie that supports children’s education in the nation’s capital. In addition to supporting multiple causes, Jean-Marie recently became board chair of The Washington Ballet. The Silver Spring native also belongs to a group of successful business executives who introduced and shaped a new approach to philanthropy by combining their giving in Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), a nonprofit group with an initial endowment of $30 million focused on the education and welfare of underprivileged children. VPP takes an investment approach to philanthropy—not in terms of profit, but of monitoring the impact of its giving. As vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
ANDY and HEATHER FLORANCE
Sometimes it takes one initiative to put a benefactor on the philanthropic map. That’s surely the case with Andrew and Heather Florance. They are the main reason why the Children’s Hospital now has a 7,200-square-foot Healing Garden, on what was previously an unused flat roof. Andy Florance, founder and CEO of the CoStar Group and his wife, who are supporters of the hospital, took the lead in raising the funds for the construction of a garden for the hospitals’ young patients who previously had no outside recreation area. The Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named after the father of philanthropist and horticulturalist Bunny (Rachel) Mellon who died in 2014, contributed $5 million toward creating the garden, and the Florances supplied further financing. In 2018, Heather Florance gathered several past first ladies of the United States to visit it. The Florances remain on the hospital board, and are also supporters of Meridian House, and were co-hosts of its 2018 annual ball.
MICHELLE DIFEBO FREEMAN
The owner and CEO of real estate development firm Carl M. Freeman Companies, Michelle Freeman also chairs two philanthropic foundations, the Carl M. Freeman Foundation and the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, the latter named after her late husband, who died in a helicopter crash in 2006. She is a founding investor of Venture Philanthropy Partners, and a partner in Monumental Sports and Entertainment. DiFebo Freeman is also a member of the founding board of Halcyon House and participates in Covenant House’s Executive Sleep-Out to support homeless young people.
JAMES GALE and LISA BARRY
Barry, a longtime government relations executive and trade specialist for Conoco, Time Warner and Boeing, kept a keen eye on corporate giving throughout her career in Washington and is continuing her philanthropic ways in retirement. Her alma mater, Bates College, of which she is a trustee, has benefited from more than $500,000 in recent years. Georgetown University, where she serves on the advisory board of the Foreign Service School, received about $250,000. She and her N.A.S.A. engineer husband, James Gale, have also given about $250,000 to Refugees International. Other annual commitments include The Washington Ballet (Gale is a trustee), the Phillips Collection, International Student House, Meridian International Center, PEN/Faulkner, Alliance Francaise, the White House Historical Association and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (through the Kuwait America Foundation).
DONALD GRAHAM and AMANDA BENNETT
When Washington Post chairman Donald Graham sold Amazon founder Jeff Bezos the family’s paper, he headed in another direction: founder of TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund to help undocumented immigrant youths, known as DREAMers, to gain access to a college education. Graham and his writer wife Amanda Bennett support a number of Washington charities and foundations but TheDream.US is the centerpiece of their philanthropic activity, both as givers and as the main organizers behind the project. Seeking to enlarge his resources for TheDream.US, Graham initially tapped his friends Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Bezos. The result was that by 2014, a year after it was formed, TheDream.US had a “war chest” of $33 million. To date, it is supporting 2,800 students in cooperating colleges across the country, and the project had originally planned to make good quality education accessible to 4,000 students. In the current political environment, Donald Graham explains that TheDream.US set off “naively expecting that by now Congress would have given the Dreamers access to federal aid: we expected to be out of business by now. We’ll surpass the 4,000 number. But we’ll have to stay in business far longer than we expected.”
ROBERT (BOB) HISAOKA
The loss of his sister Joan Hisaoka to cancer in 2008 has motivated Hisaoka’s philanthropy. Every year, he organizes and chairs the Joan Hisaoka “Make a Difference” Gala, a fundraiser to benefit the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts and the Inova Schar Cancer Institute’s Life with Cancer program. This past year’s gala raised $1.93 million, adding up to a total of $14 million since the event’s inception. An entrepreneur and one of the area’s top car dealers, Hisaoka is chairman of the Schar Cancer Institute’s advisory board. His gala work doesn’t distract from the many other causes he supports, including chairing and funding the University of Maryland’s Pitch Dingman entrepreneurial contest and the Robert G Hisaoka speaker series that recently brought Steve Case and Tom Davidson to the University.
LAURENE POWELL JOBS
California resident Powell Jobs’ ties with Washington consist in her acquisition of majority stakes in The Atlantic magazine, Pop-Up magazine and Axios, plus a sizeable interest—reportedly about 20 percent—in Monumental Sports and Entertainment. At the same time, much of the longstanding charity of the billionaire widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is through her philanthropic organization Emerson Collective (founded in 2004 and named after the author Ralph Waldo Emerson). The collective focuses on issues which have links with the nation’s capital— tens of millions of dollars to innovative K-12 schools as part of her campaign to reimagine and redesign the American high school. Higher education—helping underprivileged youths go to college—is another primary interest.
EVAN and CINDY JONES
The Joneses belong to a community of local philanthropists who are there for their favorite causes, year in, year out—gift givers that keep on giving. For example, Cindy Jones served on the board of the National Museum of Women in the Arts for several years, 2017-2018 as president, and now as a member at large. Evan Jones, founder and executive chairman of jVEN Capital LLC, has been on the board of the Children’s National Medical Center since 2012. This year, as in many previous years, the Joneses were among the sponsors of the Childrens’ Ball and The Washington Ballet Gala. They also support Refugees International, Meridian House and other Washington nonprofits and institutions.
MICHAEL KELLOGG and LUCY PUGH
Washington attorney Michael Kellogg and his wife, Lucy, a psychotherapist, focus their giving on education. Kellogg has endowed six fellowships in the Humanities at Middlebury College, his wife’s alma mater. In Washington, the couple are supporters of E. L. Haynes Charter School, and regularly sponsor the annual dinner benefiting Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys. Outside the Beltway, Kellogg and Pugh are important donors to the New York-based International Rescue Committee.
ROBERT and ARLENE KOGOD
The main conduit for the Kogods’ philanthropy is the Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod Family Foundation. According to Inside Philanthropy, a website that tracks charitable giving, the Kogods gave away “about “$9.1 million in a recent year and their philanthropy seems to be ramping up.” Kogod is the retired co-chairman and co-chief executive of the Charles E. Smith property development companies (Kogod married Smith’s daughter). Jewish causes in the greater Washington area and beyond have long been the Kogod foundation’s main beneficiaries, but its giving extends to other areas, including arts and education. The long list includes local Jewish schools, community centers and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Kogod Courtyard linking the Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery is testimony of the Kogods’ support of the Smithsonian Institution, to which they have contributed upwards of $25 million.
Japanese-American biotech entrepreneur Sachiko Kuno has turned Halcyon House, one of Washington’s historic houses dating from the late 18th century, into the center of her nonprofit Halcyon Incubator, a residential center to support talented individuals in the arts, sciences, and social entrepreneurship. As president and CEO of the S&R Foundation, which she cofounded with ex-husband Ryuji Ueno, she is also active in other Washington philanthropic areas covering a wide range from the National Cherry Blossom Festival to Johns Hopkins Medicine. She is a board member of the Mansfield Foundation, which promotes U.S.-Asia relations though exchanges and dialogue, and has also contributed to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Wolf Trap, the Middleburg Film Festival and the American Psychological Society. She was a leading sponsor of The Washington Ballet’s 2019 gala.
TED and LYNN LEONSIS
Leonsis, a former top executive at AOL, is the chairman of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owners of three local sports teams—the Mystics, the Wizards and the Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals, and a charitable donor of considerable note. He lists his charities on his blog, Ted’s Take, including the Monumental Sports and Entertainment Foundation, Georgetown University (his alma mater), Hockey Fights Cancer, Toys for Tots and a cluster of other worthy causes. Leonsis is also a member of the Venture Philanthropy Partners.
The MARRIOTT FAMILY
The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation was founded in 1965 and is still run by a board of Marriott family members led by brothers J.W. (Bill) Marriott Jr. and Richard (Dick) Marriott. The foundation’s current grantmaking programs support education, health, community and hospitality. The Bethesda-based Marriott Corporation is, after all, a major hotel chain with thousands of hotels worldwide. Its education programs include Higher Achievement, which supports after school and summer academic courses focusing on youth in at-risk communities. The Marriott Foundation gives grants for medical research (for example, The Boston Center for Endometriosis), and disease-specific programs (The American Heart Association). The foundation also supports the Marriott China Hospitality Education Initiative, which trains youth in China for careers in the hotel business. The Marriott’s support helped create the 9/11 Museum in New York, and among the exhibits is the company flag that flew over the Marriott World Trade Center Hotel, which collapsed following the terrorist attack. Daughter-in-law Carrie Marriott is a frequent event chair who has supported the Washington Ballet, Children’s National and more.
JACQUELINE BADGER MARS
Mars candy heiress Jacqueline Badger Mars’ favorite artist is Alfred Munnings, a great equestrian painter. “I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t fascinated by Munnings,” says the wealthiest woman in the Washington area ($26.8 billion, according to Forbes). It’s a fitting choice for someone with a lifelong passion for horses and equestrian sport, which has long influenced her philanthropy. A patron (and current board vice chairman) of the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, she is a trustee of the U. S. Equestrian Team (USET) and an honorary life trustee of the USET Foundation. Compared to the Mars family’s long-standing reputation for near seclusion, Mars cuts quite a swath both socially and in terms of her philanthropy. She is emeritus chairwoman of the Washington National Opera after years as its president and co-chaired this year’s WNO Gala. She is also a trustee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the National Archives, and a contributor to the Smithsonian Institution with a special fondness for the Freer Gallery of Art, which she recently supported with a large gift to add to the porcelain collection in the famous Peacock Room. Arts DC is a partnership between Mars and the Washington Performing Arts, producing community engagement programs. Last year, she gave $5 million to her alma mater, Bryn Mawr, for a new student life and wellness center. But what’s $5 million? In 2017, her company, now chaired by her son Stephen Badger, who also helps run the Mars Foundation, pledged to invest $1 billion over the next few years to support the aims of the Paris Climate Agreement and the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
GARY and CHRISTINA MATHER
The Mathers never saw a classical music organization they didn’t like. Over the years they have supported the Kennedy Center and some of its component parts, such as the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. But they were more closely connected with the Washington Performing Arts and with Wolf Trap. The Mathers seem to take turns serving on the board of the WPA and underwriting some of its major musical events. Other philanthropic interests include the Inova Health Foundation with a donation of $2 million, and the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia.
JARL and PAMELA MOHN
After a successful five years as CEO of NPR, Jarl Mohn is stepping down this month and the usual golden handshake for a job well done is in reverse: Mohn and his wife Pamela are giving National Public Radio (NPR) a $10 million parting gift. This is in part because Mohn isn’t really leaving the public radio network. He will become president emeritus and a member of the board. He has been a reluctant Washington resident after more than 20 years in California, and has maintained his support for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and other art institutions. His Mohn Family Foundation, started in 2000, still offers a $100,000 prize at the Hammer Museum’s biennial “Made in LA” exhibition.
VADIM NIKITINE and KRISTIN EHRGOOD
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the Flamboyan Foundation was among the first to organize emergency relief. The non-profit institution, whose main thrust is improving education in Washington and Puerto Rico, was formed in 2008 by Ehrgood and Puerto Rico-born real-estate developer Nikitine. Faced with the challenge of restoring normal life to the devastated island and its population, the couple formed Colaborativo PR, an alliance of nonprofit groups to restart schools (children in Puerto Rico had lost 78 days of classes) and provide support for students up to college level. The Flamboyan Foundation also teamed with the family of Puerto Rican “Hamilton” megastar Lin-Manuel Miranda to form an arts fund for Puerto Rico, raising close to $15 million this year.
YOUSEF and ABEER AL OTAIBA
Foreign embassies don’t usually make philanthropic contributions, although they frequently host events for charities. Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates high profile ambassador, however, is an active contributor to causes both inside and outside the Beltway. In 2018, the U.A.E. embassy donated $30 million to Children’s National for pediatric medical research. About 150 Emirati children are treated at the hospital every year, and the embassy has long-standing generous ties to the institution. In 2017, the Emirati, through the embassy, contributed $10 million to Texas and Florida in hurricane relief. Al Otaiba’s embassy is also listed as a contributor to the Kennedy Center’s REACH fund for the construction of the Center’s multi-million dollar extension. Perhaps more unusual, the embassy has in recent years given upwards of $100,000 a year to local Catholic Charities and supported the organization’s annual gala and Catholic University.
MILTON, CAROLYN and LAUREN PETERSON
Involvement with the community is at the center of the Peterson’s philanthropic giving. Partnering with Venture Philanthropy Partners, they developed an innovative workforce development strategy for Prince George’s county – called Ready for Work – that focuses on three local high schools and helping students prepare for jobs. On a larger scale, George Mason University this year opened its new Peterson Family Health Science Hall after the Carolyn and Lauren Peterson Family Foundation had donated $8 million towards its construction. Milton and his wife Carolyn set up the foundation, now run by daughter Lauren, in 1997. But 2019 was also a year of fulfillment for the Petersons’ philanthropy in another respect. The Inova Schar Cancer Institute, to which they had contributed $10 million, also went into operation.
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank outfits the young athletes of the Baltimore city public schools at his own cost. Late in 2018, around the time that Under Armour announced that its employees would no longer be able to charge visits to strip clubs to the company to make its working environment more comfortable for females, Plank started Under Armour’s “We Will” campaign, extending the company’s philanthropy beyond sports to social activity. His most recent giving was $100,000 at the beginning of 2019 year to boost jobs in Baltimore. A couple of years back, Plank famously contributed $25 million to the development of his alma mater, the University of Maryland. He is a long-time trustee of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation.
MITCHELL and EMILY RALES
Mitchell Rales, a billionaire industrialist, and his wife Emily Wei Rales have poured $200 million into the transformation of their Glenstone Museum from a nearly hidden gem located in Potomac, Md., into what the Washington Post called “a 230-acre campus of art and nature.” The privately owned museum, which opened in 2018, hosts what is considered one of the biggest collections of American and European contemporary art in the country—and admission is free (by prior reservation).
Part of the $8.6 billion family that owns the largest beer distributor in the U.S., Reyes Beverage Group, Jimmy lives in the District area as owner of Reyes Holdings, Llc and serves as Director of Real Estate and a Director of Reyes Beer Division. He is chairman of the Medstar National Rehabilitation Network in Washington, DC and has held a leadership position with First Tee of Washington, a youth golfing philanthropy. This year he served on the 2019 host committee for the Children’s National Ball.
SHARON PERCY ROCKEFELLER
The daughter of a U.S. senator (Charles Percy, R-Ill.), Sharon Percy Rockefeller married into one of America’s historic families, famous for their wealth and philanthropy, and is herself involved in multiple causes. She is one of the most influential women in the nation’s capital and has for many years been the high profile CEO of WETA, provider of commercial-free television news and culture to Washingtonians. She is also the long-standing chairman of trustees of the National Gallery of Art, and, with husband John D. Rockefeller IV, a former Democratic U.S. senator from West Virginia, has an important role in the acquisition of new works. She is a trustee of Johns Hopkins Medicine and since 2018 a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Read our full interview: “The Patriotic Philanthropist: David Rubenstein’s view of giving—and giving
ROGER SANT and ALEXIS SANT
Six months before the death of Victoria (Vicki) Sant in December 2018, the Summit Foundation she had started with her billionaire husband Roger in 1991 announced the appointment of their son Alexis Sant as its new president, a move “marking the transition to second-generation leadership” of the foundation that was the main conduit of the Sant’s giving of hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes. The foundation focused largely on the Sants’ priorities—children, nature conservancy and the arts. Vicki Sant was chairman of the Phillips Collection and a long-time trustee of the National Gallery of Art. Earl A. “Rusty” Powell, until recently director of the NGA said of her, “If you were trying to clone the perfect trustee, she’s the model for it.”
B. FRANCIS (FRANK) SAUL II
Publicity-shy real estate billionaire Frank Saul has been a prolific philanthropist in Washington for decades. His giving spreads over a wide area, with emphasis on Catholic causes and charities, but also the arts, his two universities (Villanova and the University of Virginia School of Law), medicine and the Knights of Malta. Recognition of his Catholic-related giving came in 1991 in the form of the papal medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pontiff), which the Vatican awards to non-clerics for services to the church. In recent years he has contributed upwards of $250,000 on a more or less annual basis to the University of Virginia. According to the 2018 annual report of Saul Center, the real estate company where he is still chairman and CEO, he is a member of the Trustees Council of the National Gallery of Art, a trustee emeritus of the National Geographic Society, a trustee emeritus of Johns Hopkins Medicine’s board and an honorary trustee of the Brookings Institution.
DWIGHT and MARTHA SCHAR
The $50 million the Schars contributed to create the recently opened Inova Cancer Research Institute remains the largest gift received by the Virginia medical complex, but the Schars contribute to other causes. George Mason University, where Dwight Schar serves as a trustee, has received more than one gift, notably $10 million to its School of Policy and Government, which is why it bears the Schar name. The GMU Center for Regional Analysis has also received the couple’s support. Dwight Schar, founder and chairman of the nation’s largest home builder, NVR Inc., is part owner of the Washington Redskins and a member of the Redskins Charitable Fund’s leadership council. Martha Schar is on the board of directors of the Wesley Housing Development Corporation, a nonprofit group in Alexandria, Va. that promotes affordable housing, and of Childhelp, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse.
ENRIQUE and ALEJANDRA SEGURA
The Argentine-born billionaire and his wife are generous, donors mainly to Catholic and Hispanic causes. Their lifetime giving is reported to be well over $2 million, including to Catholic Charities, where Enrique has for years been on the board of directors and wife Alejandra, an attorney and children’s rights advocate, has chaired the group’s annual gala. In addition, Enrique Segura has been chairman of the board of trustees at Catholic University since 2017, when the university switched from an ecclesiastical board (including all the active American cardinals) to lay trustees. Enrique founded and is chairman of the Trust for the Americas, the philanthropic arm of the Organization of American States, which supports causes in the Western hemisphere. Alejandra Segura has founded or is connected with several philanthropic organizations, including the Mercy Project, working with children in Kenya, and Operation Canasta, active in Argentina.
Shah was appointed president of the 105- year-old Rockefeller Foundation—with $4 billion in assets it is one of the biggest and most prominent philanthropic entities in the country. He had previously served as director of U. S.A.I.D. in the Obama administration, and before that at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he helped launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, an initiative aimed at increasing agriculture productivity. One of his first major projects as president was to join forces with Washington philanthropist Adrienne Arsht and the Atlantic Council to create the Adrienne Arsht and Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, with Rockfeller contributing $30 million and Arsht $25 million. Shah, who is U.S.-born of Indian immigrant parents, says he took the Rockefeller post because he was “drawn by the chance to be part of demonstrating to the world that America can lead with its values.”
EARL and AMANDA STAFFORD
The Staffords ’ philanthropic foundation donated $2 million towards construction of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American Arts and Culture. A center for exhibitions of images of African-American history bears their name. Established in 2002, the Stafford Foundation supports programs in the areas of faith-based mission support, education and health care. The couple’s faith-based giving extends to African countries, where their foundation has built Christian churches and orphanages.
The real estate developer started the Weissberg Foundation with his family in 1988, aimed primarily at reducing racial inequality through a strategy of giving to specific sectors, including the theater as a messenger of social change, minority organizations and women’s groups. For example, the foundation committed $1 million over three years to six District theaters, including the Gala Hispanic Theater and The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. In 2019, it contributed to Justice for Muslims and The National Korean American Service and Education Consortium to combat what it called “racial and ethnic disparities.” Gender organizations targeted by the foundation’s philanthropy included Rights4Girls.