IUPUI professor provides retrospective as Rockefeller Foundation turns 100

INDIANAPOLIS — Before there was a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or a Ford Foundation, there was the Rockefeller Foundation, whose philanthropic muscle dominated scientific and medical research for four decades.

The Rockefeller Foundation on May 14 announced its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, a $100 million effort to help 100 cities around the world prepare to weather and rebound from either natural or manmade disasters. The campaign continues a visionary approach to “promoting the well-being of mankind throughout the world” that began with the foundation’s creation 100 years ago this month.

“Rockefeller is a well-known name, but most people aren’t familiar with the family’s specific contributions,” said Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis professor William H. Schneider. “Researchers get grants and fellowships. Those are things that didn’t exist before the Rockefeller Foundation.”

The Rockefellers’ contributions went beyond funding to creating the mechanisms for dispersing or awarding funds. Lessons learned by the Rockefeller Foundation could well serve today’s leading philanthropic giants, said Schneider, head of the Medical Humanities and Health Studies program in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

The May 16 issue of Nature magazine provides a historic perspective on the Rockefeller Foundation in an article written by Schneider, “Philanthropy: The difficult art of giving.” Schneider is a professor of history in the School of Liberal Arts and a professor of philanthropic studies in the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI.

The IUPUI professor is the editor of “Rockefeller Philanthropy and Modern Biomedicine,” published by Indiana University Press in 2002. The content is the work of experts gathered for a conference at the Rockefeller Archives Center in Tarrytown, N.Y.

Schneider is also author of the forthcoming book, “The History of Blood Transfusions in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

To reach Schneider for interviews about the history of the Rockefeller Foundation and its impact on philanthropy, email whschnei@iupui.edu; call 317-274-4740; or contact Diane Brown, at 317-274-2195 or habrown@iu.edu.