Philanthropist Rockefeller Leaves Lasting Legacy

David Rockefeller, global financial expert and noted philanthropist, died on March 20 at the age of 101. Rockefeller co-founded Rockefeller Brothers Fund and was the long-time benefactor, honorary chairman, and life trustee of The Rockefeller University, which was founded by Rockefeller’s grandfather, John D. Rockefeller.

Rockefeller first became involved in the university in 1940, joining the board of the then Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, according to the university. He began chairing the board in 1950 and served in that capacity until 1975, before serving as chair of the board’s Executive Committee for another 20 years.
In 1995, he was elected honorary chairman and life trustee at the school. The university’s doctorate program was named in his honor in 2005.

The fund was launched in 1940 by Rockefeller and his four older brothers. He became chairman in 1980 and had served as an advisory and life trustee since 1987, according to a fund release. Rockefeller also founded the Rockefeller Family Fund in 1967 and the David Rockefeller Fund in 1989.

In addition to his service with the funds and university, Rockefeller chaired such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, Harvard College Board of Overseers, the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association, and the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture.

“The entire Rockefeller family mourns the passing of our Uncle David, who has guided the family as a whole and shaped our individual work in philanthropy, all the while carrying himself with a sense of humility that will endure in us and our work,” said Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, chair of the fund’s board of trustees and grandniece of Rockefeller. “His spirit and values remain central to the Fund, including a commitment to lasting relationships, an understanding of global interdependence and the importance of creativity, and a deep respect for the freedoms of every individual and the sanctity of the natural environment.”

Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, expressed gratitude for Rockefeller’s vision and legacy. “David has been a friend and mentor since my tenure began at the Fund 16 years ago, and while we have lost his human presence, he remains the North Star that guides us in our efforts to help create a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world,” he said.

Rockefeller was born in New York City in 1915 and educated at Harvard University, the London School of Economics, and the University of Chicago, where he earned a Ph.D. in Economics, according to a university release. Rockefeller’s entire business career was spent at Chase Manhattan Bank, where he eventually served as chairman and CEO, specializing in international banking.

He is survived by his five living children and their families as well as the family of Richard Gilder Rockefeller, who predeceased his father in 2014.