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VOLUME 12, NUMBER 12 • DECEMBER 15, 2000

Leaders of Gates, Rockefeller foundations on campus

On Tues., Dec. 5, leaders from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and other major philanthropies visited campus to take part in a meeting on "Philanthropy in a Global Century." Sponsored by The Rockefeller University Council, the event focused on infectious diseases and other problems that disproportionately affect developing nations, and on how private philanthropy can make a difference.

TOP: Life Trustee David Rockefeller (at left), William H. Gates Sr. (center) and David Rockefeller Jr. took part in The Rockefeller University Council event "Philanthropy in a Global Century." BELOW: Patty Stonesifer, co-chair and president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, spoke with Gordon Conway, president of The Rockefeller Foundation.

Speakers on the program included William H. Gates Sr., co-chair and CEO of the foundation that was created by his son and daughter-in-law; Gordon Conway, president of The Rockefeller Foundation; and David Rockefeller, honorary chairman of the Rockefeller University Council, as well as university scientists George A.M. Cross, David D. Ho and John McKinney.

In his opening remarks for the evening's program, Rockefeller University President Arnold J. Levine cited the university's history of combating disease worldwide and noted that nearly a third of the university's 75 laboratories are working to find better ways to treat and prevent infection.

David Rockefeller emphasized the importance of cooperation among philanthropists, research institutions and government agencies, drawing on an example from the university's early history, when scientists at The Rockefeller Institute helped to ensure the purity of New York City's milk supply.

"The same sequence of events can be seen over and over again in American history," said Rockefeller. "A philanthropic institution endowed by private American wealth collaborates with the public sector to bring about positive social change. That was at the heart of the Green Revolution initiated by The Rockefeller Foundation in the 1950s."

Conway, an agricultural ecologist who has headed the 87-year-old Rockefeller Foundation since 1998, discussed its current initiatives and described the complexities that confront foundations working in a worldwide arena.

The much newer Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving global access to innovations in health and learning. Bill Gates Sr. spoke in particular of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. GAVI is a collaboration among governments, groups like UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and foundations like the Rockefeller and Gates foundations. Its aim is to raise money internationally for life-saving vaccines, then buy those vaccines and deliver them to children in the 74 poorest countries.

Gates said that "Taking our lead and our inspiration from work already done by The Rockefeller Foundation, our foundation actually started GAVI by pledging $750 million to something called the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines, an instrument of GAVI."

He also praised the Rockefeller family's century of philanthropy, saying, "It seems like every new corner we turn, the Rockefellers are already there. And in some cases, they have been there for a long, long time."

Following Gates's talk, three Rockefeller University scientists gave progress reports about research on diseases for which truly effective vaccines have not yet been found. Professor George Cross discussed malaria and trypanosomiasis, Professor David Ho, scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center spoke about efforts to develop vaccines and microbicides against HIV, and Assistant Professor John McKinney provided an update on tuberculosis research.

The event concluded with a question and discussion period that brought all of the program speakers together for a panel discussion that included Patty Stonesifer, former senior vice president of Microsoft Corporation who is now co-chair and president of the Gates Foundation.

Last week's program attracted an audience of more than 220 Council members and guests. The Rockefeller University Council is an international advisory group of leaders in philanthropy, business and industry, education, law, finance, and many other fields. Council members help to increase public awareness of the importance of basic research and the excellence of the university's scientific investigations.

 

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