John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

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John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
MacArth primary logo stacked.svg
Founded 1970[1][2]
Focus Public policy, media, the arts
Julia Stasch
Key people
John D. MacArthur (co-founder)
Catherine T. MacArthur (co-founder)
Endowment $6.5 billion (2014)
Slogan "Committed to building a more just, verdant & peaceful world."

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is the 12th-largest private foundation in the United States.[3] Based in Chicago, the Foundation supports non-profit organizations in approximately 50 countries. MacArthur reports that it has awarded more than US $5.5 billion since its first grants in 1978.[1] According to the Foundation, it has an endowment of $6.5 billion and provides approximately $225 million annually in grants and program-related investments.[4][5]

The Foundation's stated aim is to support "creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world."[4][6] MacArthur's grant-making priorities include mitigating climate change and reducing prison populations.[7] The Foundation sponsors the MacArthur Fellows Program, also referred to as “genius grants,” which are $625,000 no-strings-attached awards annually granted to about two dozen individuals in diverse fields.[8]


John D. MacArthur owned Bankers Life and Casualty and other businesses, as well as considerable property holdings in Florida and New York. His wife, Catherine T. MacArthur, held positions in many of these companies. Their attorney, William T. Kirby, and Paul Doolen, their CFO, suggested that the family create a foundation to be endowed by their vast fortune.

When MacArthur 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 MacArthur’s will, also included J. Roderick MacArthur, John's son from his first marriage, two other officers of Bankers Life and Casualty, and radio commentator Paul Harvey.[1]

MacArthur was a capitalist,[9][10] and the Foundation’s original 1970 deed said that one purpose of the foundation was to support “ways to discover and promulgate avoidance of waste in government expenditures.”[9] However, MacArthur did not spell out specific parameters for how his money was to be spent after he died. MacArthur told the Foundation's board of directors, “I figured out how to make the money. You fellows will have to figure out how to spend it.”[1][11] Between 1979 and 1981, John's son J. Roderick MacArthur, waged a legal battle against the Foundation for control of the board of directors. The Foundation became and remains one of the pillars of the liberal philanthropic establishment.[9][12][13][14]


Dr. John Corbally, the first president of the Foundation and later board chairman from 1995 to 2002, was followed in 1989–99 by Dr. Adele Smith Simmons, who was the first female dean at Princeton University.[15][16][17] Then, Dr. Jonathan Fanton, president of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, served as the Foundation's next president.[15][18] Dr. Robert Gallucci, formerly dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, served as the Foundation's fourth president from 2009 to 2014.[15][19] Gallucci was fired in 2014, with the Foundation's board announcing it was "looking for a new kind of leadership."[20] Julia Stasch, who formerly served as MacArthur's vice president for U.S. Programs, was named the Foundation's new president in 2015.[1] Stasch had formerly served as chief of staff to Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley.[21]

MacArthur Fellowship[edit]

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, the fellowship is not a reward for past accomplishment, but an investment in a person's originality and potential. Dr. George Burch of Tulane University is credited with conceiving of the idea for the MacArthur Fellow program.[11]


A new competition launched on June 2, 2016, will award a $100 million grant to a single proposal designed to help solve a critical problem affecting people, places, or the planet. The Foundation’s competition, called "100&Change", is open to organizations working in any field of endeavor. Applicants must identify both the problem they are trying to solve, as well as their proposed solution. Competitive proposals must be meaningful, verifiable, durable and feasible.[22][23][24][25]


In May 2016, Phillip Jackson, former CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority and the founder of the Black Star Project, criticized the MacArthur Foundation for the racial homogeneity of its grant recipients. In response, MacArthur President Julia Stasch wrote that Jackson's critique "inaccurately and grossly understated our efforts to address the urgent problems that confront our city" and that "Since 1979, we have provided $1.1 billion in grants and direct impact investments to Chicago organizations—more MacArthur funds than to any other place in the world."[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "MacArthur Foundation: Our History". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Nicas, Jack (September 20, 2011). "The New Class of 'Geniuses'". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Asset Size". Foundation Center. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "MacArthur Foundation: Chicago Grants". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Program Budgets". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  6. ^ "About Us". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  7. ^ Daniels, Alex (January 11, 2016). "Inside MacArthur's Rapid Strategic Shift to 'Big Bets'". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  8. ^ Conrad, Cecilia (September 20, 2013). "Five myths about the MacArthur 'genius grants'". Washington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c Morse Wooster, Martin (Summer 2008). "The Inscrutable Billionaire". Philanthropy Magazine. Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Hauer, Peter W. (2011). The Big Picture: The Past, The Present, & Your Children's Future. Author House. p. 355. ISBN 9781420815351. 
  11. ^ a b Morse Wooster, Martin (December 1, 2010). "The MacArthur Mistake". Commentary. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  12. ^ Goodman, Walter (December 5, 1993). "Making the Case for PBS (And It's Not So Easy)". New York Times. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Piereson, James (May 27, 2005). "Investing in the Right Ideas". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  14. ^ Calfas, Jennifer (June 9, 2015). "Americans pessimistic about ability for economic mobility, study finds". USA Today. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  15. ^ a b c "MacArthur Foundation: Past Presidents". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  16. ^ Fellers, Li (26 July 2004). "Dr. John Corbally, 79: First president helped establish MacArthur Foundation identity". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  17. ^ "Adele Simmons". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Selected Works of Dr. Jonathan Fanton". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  19. ^ Spector, Mike (10 March 2009). "Former Diplomat to Lead MacArthur Foundation". The Wall Street Journal. p. A2. Retrieved March 10, 2009. 
  20. ^ Callahan, David (May 3, 2014). "Why Did Mac Sack Bob?". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Callahan, David (March 13, 2015). "Julia Stasch Atop MacArthur: Change or More of the Same? Maybe Both". Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  22. ^ MacArthur Foundation Press Release, June 2, 2016
  23. ^ MacArthur Foundation Will Award $100 Million for Solution to a Global Problem Christine Hauser. New York Times. June 2, 2016. July 4, 2016
  24. ^ MacArthur Foundation has $100 million for a problem solver Steve Johnson. Chicago Tribune. June 2, 2016. July 4, 2016
  25. ^ A "Wow!" Moment In US Philanthropy: MacArthur Foundation's $100 Million Competition William Foster. Forbes. June 28, 2016
  26. ^ Stasch, Julia (June 1, 2016). "MacArthur chief: We have an unwavering commitment to Chicago". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 

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