John D. Rockefeller III
|John Davison Rockefeller III|
March 21, 1906|
New York, U.S.
|Died||July 10, 1978
Mount Pleasant, New York
Cause of death
|Rockefeller Family Cemetery
Sleepy Hollow, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
|Spouse(s)||Blanchette Ferry Hooker
(m. 1932—1978; his death)
|Parents||John Davison Rockefeller, Jr.
Abigail Green Aldrich
John Davison Rockefeller III (March 21, 1906 – July 10, 1978) was a philanthropist and third-generation member of the prominent Rockefeller family. He was the eldest son of philanthropists John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. His siblings were Abby, Nelson, Laurance, Winthrop, and David.
Like his sister Abby, John III eventually settled on philanthropy as his major interest. His brothers Nelson and Winthrop devoted themselves to politics while Laurance went into conservation and David went into banking. He was a major force behind the establishment of the Council on Foundations, the Foundation Center, and Independent Sector. He took a leading role in organizing the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy (better known as the Peterson Commission) and the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (better known as the Filer Commission). He also made the initial donation to support Yale University's Program on Non-Profit Organizations, the first academic research center to focus on nonprofits.
In addition to his interest in philanthropy, Rockefeller made major commitments to supporting organizations related to East Asian affairs, including the Institute of Pacific Relations, the Asia Society, and the Japan Society. He was also a major supporter of the Population Council.
John Davison Rockefeller III was born in New York on March 21, 1906 to philanthropists John Davison Rockefeller, Jr. (1874—1960) and Abigail Greene "Abby" Aldrich (1874—1948). He had four younger brothers, Nelson, Winthrop, Laurance, and David, and an elder sister, Abby. Through his father, he was a grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John Davison Rockefeller, Sr. and schoolteacher Laura Celestia "Cettie" Spelman. Through his mother, he was a grandson of Senator Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich and Abigail Pearce Truman "Abby" Chapman. He received his preparatory education at the Browning School in New York City and the Loomis Institute, Windsor, Connecticut, in 1925. He went to Princeton University where he received high honors in economics and graduated in 1929 with the degree of Bachelor of Science, choosing industrial relations as the subject of his senior thesis. His interest in industrial relations stemmed from the family's role in the Ludlow Massacre, in which strikebreakers and security guards killed women and children of miners striking against the Rockefeller-controlled Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. Rockefeller's father worked to restore the family's public reputation by championing industrial relations and the work of William Lyon Mackenzie King, a pioneer in the field.
Commencing a lifelong commitment to international relations, he undertook a world tour after graduating from college, which concluded with assignments for the Institute of Pacific Relations conference in Japan.
John III would be the next Rockefeller manager for all family undertakings of social relevance. Since 1929, in total he sat on twenty boards of various institutions, most of which were family-related. The more notable of these were:
- Rockefeller University - then the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (Established by Senior);
- Colonial Williamsburg (John Jr., Abby);
- Riverside Church (John Jr.);
- International House of New York (John Jr.);
- General Education Board - later the International Education Board (Senior);
- China Medical Board (John Sr., John Jr.);
- Bureau of Social Hygiene (John Jr.);
- Industrial Relations Counselors (John Jr.).
John III was at one time a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Foreign Policy Association and the Institute of Pacific Relations, as well as being on the board of directors of Princeton University. In late 1950, he accompanied secretary of state John Foster Dulles and Douglas MacArthur on a trip to Japan to conclude a peace treaty, during which time he consulted with many Japanese leaders in practically every important sphere of that country's life.
He was a prominent third-generation family philanthropist in his own right and founder of the Asia Society, the major institution he established in 1956 to foster greater cooperation between Asia and the United States. He also founded the Population Council in 1952, and a reconstituted Japan Society. In addition, he set up the United Negro College Fund for the ongoing education of African Americans, carrying on the family tradition in this area with his grandfather's funding of the education of black women at Spelman College in Atlanta.
He was on his father's Advisory Committee in the family office, Room 5600. He was also president of the family's principal philanthropy run by family members, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, from its inception in 1940 to 1956. In 1929, he joined the family's renowned Rockefeller Foundation; elected to the board in 1931 he subsequently became chairman of this major philanthropic organization for twenty years and was responsible for changing the focus of the institution.
The principal philanthropic institution he created was the JDR III Fund in 1963, its major program being the Asian Cultural Program, created in 1967 to encourage East-West cultural exchange. The Fund was wound-up upon his death in 1979, but the Cultural Program continued as the Asian Cultural Council, which has provided grant assistance to more than 4,000 Asians and Americans in the area of the arts. Funding for its programs is derived from a combination of endowment income and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations in the United States and Asia.
In the mid 1950s, John III assumed the leadership of a committee of civic leaders who were working to create Lincoln Center. He became the key figure in the fund-raising efforts and in forging a consensus among the civic leaders and others who were essential to its success. The Center itself was built over a period from 1959 to 1966. He was its first president, commencing in 1956, and he became its chairman in 1961. He served as chairman until 1970 when he was duly elected honorary chairman.
In the late 1960s, Rockefeller III was responsible for the creation of the Commission on Foundations and Private Philanthropy (usually known as the Peterson Commission, headed by Peter G. Peterson) and the Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs (usually known as the Filer Commission). He established the Rockefeller Public Service Awards in 1958. In 1959, he received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York." In 1976, he received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. Rockefeller College at Princeton University was named in his honor in 1982.
On November 11, 1932, he married the socially connected Blanchette Ferry Hooker (1909—1992), who was to serve as chairman of the Asian Cultural Council from 1980 to 1990, and who established the Blanchette H. Rockefeller Fellowship Fund, in Japan. They had one son and three daughters:
- John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV - a U.S. Senator from West Virginia and a former two-term governor of that state
- Hope Aldrich Rockefeller
- Sandra Ferry Rockefeller
- Alida Ferry Rockefeller
John Davison Rockefeller III was killed in an automobile accident in Mount Pleasant, New York (near the Rockefeller family estate in Pocantico), on July 10, 1978, at the age of 72. He was buried at the Rockefeller Family Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
- Hall, Peter Dobkin. Inventing the Nonprofit Sector and Other Essays on Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Nonprofit Organizations. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
- Harr, John Ensor, and Peter J. Johnson. The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988. ISBN 0-684-18936-4.
- Harr, John Ensor, and Peter J. Johnson. The Rockefeller Conscience: An American Family in Public and in Private. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1991. ISBN 0-684-19364-7.
- Marcus, George E., & Hall, Peter Dobkin. Lives in Trust: The Fortunes of Dynastic Families in Late Twentieth Century America. Boulder: Westview Press, 1992.
- Rockefeller, David. Memoirs. New York: Random House, 2002. ISBN 0-679-40588-7.
- Young, Edgar B. Lincoln Center: The Building of an Institution. New York: New York University Press, 1980.
- Rockefeller family
- Rockefeller Foundation
- Rockefeller University
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- Jay Rockefeller
- David Rockefeller
- Nelson Rockefeller
- William Rockefeller
- Lincoln Center
- The Asia Society
- Population Council
- Time Magazine report on JDR III's early participation, in the Institute of Pacific Relations. (1929). 
- Accompanied Dulles on peace treaty mission to Japan - see John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson, The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988 (pp.502-510)
- Rockefeller Archive Center Biography
- Rockefeller Archive Center: Selected Biography
- John D Rockefeller 3rd papers at the Rockefeller Archive Center.
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund website