John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
|Focus||Public affairs, the media, the arts|
|John D. MacArthur (co-founder)
Catherine T. MacArthur (co-founder)
|Endowment||$5.70 billion (12/31/11)|
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States. Based in Chicago and supporting non-profit organizations that work in 50 countries, MacArthur has awarded more than US$4 billion since its inception in 1978. With an endowment over $6 billion, the foundation provides approximately $225 million annually in grants and low-interest loans.
In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, also known as "genius grants," topics of interest to the foundation include international peace and security, conservation and sustainable development, population and reproductive health, human rights, international migration, community development, affordable housing, digital media and learning, juvenile justice, and public interest media, including public radio and independent documentary film. The Foundation also gives grants to more than 300 arts and cultural institutions in the Chicago area.
John D. MacArthur (1897–1978) owned Bankers Life and Casualty and other businesses, as well as considerable property in Florida and New York. His wife Catherine T. MacArthur (1908–1981) held positions in many of these companies. John MacArthur's attorney William T. Kirby, along with Paul Doolen, MacArthur's CFO, suggested that the MacArthurs create a foundation to be endowed by their vast fortune. The legal document that created the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation was two pages long and written by Kirby in plain language.
When John died on January 6, 1978, he was worth in excess of $1 billion and was reportedly one of the three richest men in the United States. MacArthur left 92 percent of his estate to begin the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The composition of the Foundation’s first Board of Directors, per John D. MacArthur’s will, also included Catherine, J. Roderick MacArthur (a son from John D. MacArthur’s first marriage), two other officers of Bankers Life and Casualty, and radio commentator Paul Harvey.
Doolen was the first board chair of the Foundation, serving from 1979-1984. John Corbally was the first president of the Foundation, who served from 1979-1989. Adele Simmons was the second president of the Foundation, serving from 1989 to 1999. Jonathan F. Fanton, formerly President of the New School for Social Research, served as MacArthur's president from 1999 to 2009. On July 1, 2009, Robert L. Gallucci, formerly dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, began as the Foundation's fourth president. In addition to their headquarters in Chicago, they also maintain offices in Mexico, India, Nigeria, and Russia.
The MacArthur Fellowship is an award issued by the MacArthur Foundation each year, to typically 20 to 25 citizens or residents of the United States, of any age and working in any field, who "show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work." According to the Foundation website, "the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but rather an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential."
The Foundation does not accept applications or grant interviews. The foundation relies on anonymous nominators, who submit recommendations to a small selection committee of about a dozen people. The committee then reviews every applicant and passes along their recommendations to the President and the board of directors. The entire process is anonymous and confidential. The first time that a new MacArthur Fellow learns that he or she was even being considered is upon receiving a phone call telling him or her the news of the award.
William T. Kirby, a founding member of the board of directors and Chairman of the Board until his death, suggested that the MacArthur Foundation create the Fellows Program. He credited his doctor, Dr. George Burch of Tulane University, for bringing this idea to his attention. The philanthropist's son J. Roderick MacArthur was the chief implementer of the details of the Fellows Program, and its strongest supporter.
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- About the Foundation - MacArthur Foundation
- John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. (2008). 30 Years of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation http://www.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7Bb0386ce3-8b29-4162-8098-e466fb856794%7D/MacArthur_30years.pdf
- Spector, Mike (10 March 2009). "Former Diplomat to Lead MacArthur Foundation". The Wall Street Journal. p. A2. Retrieved March 10, 2009.
- MacArthur Foundation