US Philanthropy Hall of Fame

US Philanthropy Hall of Fame

News (International)

A Philanthropy Hall of Fame has been developed by a US network of charitable donors, the Philanthropy Roundtable. It celebrates (post-humously) 54 Americans who “changed the nation and the world through their charitable giving”.

The online hall of fame, at, profiles the philanthropists, detailing their backgrounds, motivations and achievements. The list can be viewed by various categories including source of income, philanthropic interests, era and religion.

The philanthropists include George Peabody, J.P. Morgan, W. K. Kellogg, Conrad Hilton and Ellen Browning Scripps. One of the few women in the list, Browning Scripps was born in 1836 in London and moved to the US when she was seven. She became independently wealthy through wise investments in her brother’s media business. However, money did not always bring the family happiness. She once wrote that she wished she could be “where the air that I breathe will not be tainted, nor my ears polluted with the foul smell and sound of money, and the baseness of spirit it engenders.” She went on to give an endowment to help found the Marine Biological Association of San Diego, which was renamed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Education, particularly for women was a major focus of her philanthrophy.

Another woman made it into the list, through her generosity rather than enormous wealth. Oseola McCarty, a black woman who lived in Mississippi, took in laundry to earn money until the age of 86. She saved a few cents from every dollar she earned. When she retired in 1995, she gave $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi to fund scholarships for poor people. Through this generous act, she inspired over 600 people to make donations more than tripling her original endowment. Today, the university offers several full-tuition McCarty scholarships every year.

Religion was a key motivator for McCarty, who was a Baptist. When the list is filtered by religion, only one is listed as ‘none’ and two as ‘unknown’. Thirteen of the philanthropists are listed as Episcopalian, six as Jewish and four as Quaker.

One of the Episcopalians, J. P. Morgan had a lifelong engagement with the arts and was also deeply interested in the natural sciences. A trustee of the American Museum of Natural History for 44 years, Morgan served on the board from the museum’s opening in 1869 until his death in 1913. He was often the museum’s lead donor—frequently giving under condition of anonymity.

When filtered by source of wealth, the list shows that nine made their fortune through finance, another nine inherited it and eight earned it through manufacturing. Oil, retail and real estate also feature. Only one earned it through telecommunications.

In terms of focus of philanthropy, the arts, higher education and economic opportunity were the most popular causes.

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