James D. Wolfensohn, attorney, investment economist, and arts patron whose two terms as president of the World Bank Group gave it a more humane approach to ending poverty, dies at the age of 86

James D. Wolfensohn, attorney, investment economist, and arts patron whose two terms as president of the World Bank Group gave it a more humane approach to ending poverty, dies at the age of 86

James Wolfensohn knew all there was to know about global capital markets and responsible investment strategies. His compassion for the world’s poor helped steer not only the World Bank but also the Corporation’s grantmaking and investing to combat global poverty and promote educational innovation. During his term on the Corporation’s board, his intimate knowledge of music and the arts guided his insistence on their critical role in our education programs. It was a real privilege to know him.

Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York


The board of trustees, staff, and the entire Carnegie Corporation of New York community extend their deepest condolences to the family of James D. Wolfensohn, former president of the World Bank, who served as a trustee of the Corporation and was a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2017. He died November 25, 2020, at his home in Manhattan at the age of 86 due to complications from pneumonia

Wolfensohn assumed the presidency of the World Bank Group in 1995, when it was widely viewed as dogmatic and punitive in its “structural adjustment” approach to debt in the developing world. He traveled to 120 countries, launching initiatives against corruption, for environmental preservation, and toward research into HIV/AIDS. In his two terms, he involved struggling countries in ownership of new economic policies, engaging with nongovernmental organizations and changing the tone and image of the bank.

James Wolfensohn was born on December 1, 1933, in Sydney, Australia. He received bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Sydney, and was a member of Australia’s 1956 Olympic fencing team. After serving as a pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force, Wolfensohn earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Business in 1959 and launched his career as an investment advisor to corporations and governments. He held such positions as Managing Director of Schroders Ltd. in London, Managing Director of Darling & Co. of Australia, and head of investment banking at Salomon Brothers in New York. Wolfensohn became a U.S. citizen in 1980, and the next year established his own investment firm, James D. Wolfensohn Inc.

After several decades in the private sector, Wolfensohn began taking on public service and other nongovernmental roles. He served on the board of directors for the Brookings Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Population Council, and the Business Council for Sustainable Development. In his 2010 autobiography, A Global Life: My Journey among Rich and Poor, from Sydney to Wall Street to the World Bank, Wolfensohn wrote about the “close link between work done for cultural and philanthropic purposes and the responsibility of business … to contribute to the strength and quality of the community.”

Wolfensohn had an enduring passion for the arts. He became a board member at Carnegie Hall in 1970, board chair in 1980, and then chairman emeritus, leading restoration of its landmark building. He became board chair of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1990. At age 41, he began studying the cello, going on to perform at Carnegie Hall on his 50th, 60th, and 70th birthdays, the last two with Yo-Yo Ma and the rock artist Bono, who called him “the Elvis of economics.” He was the recipient of many national and international medals and awards in recognition of his public service and his support for the arts. These include a knighthood of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan, the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the award of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

After leaving the World Bank in 2005, Wolfensohn became Special Envoy for Gaza Disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East, helping coordinate Israel’s planned withdrawal from Gaza. He joined the board of Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2009, advising its investment team until 2017 through his encyclopedic knowledge of global capital markets. In 2017, he received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, awarded every two years by the Carnegie family of institutions for work that embodies Andrew Carnegie’s ideals. “If you have wealth, you have to share it,” Wolfensohn said on accepting the honor.

Wolfensohn was also board chair at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, chair of the Citi International Advisory Board, and an advisory council member to China’s sovereign wealth fund. In addition, he chaired the advisory group of the Wolfensohn Center, a Brookings Institution research initiative focused on global poverty.

Wolfensohn was predeceased by his wife, Elaine Botwinick Wolfensohn, an education specialist, and is survived by daughter Naomi and husband Jascha, daughter Sara and husband Neil, son Adam and wife Jennifer, and seven grand- children.

Thomas H. Kean, Chair, Board of Trustees, Carnegie Corporation of New York

Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York

TOP: James D. Wolfensohn accepting the George F. Kennan Award for Public Service from the National Committee on American Foreign Policy at a gala dinner in New York City on October 19, 2016. The innovative economist and arts patron, who moved the World Bank toward a more humane approach to ending poverty and served on the board of Carnegie Corporation of New York, died on November 25, 2020, at the age of 86. (Credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Morton L. Mandel, Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipient and entrepreneur, dies at age 98

Morton L. Mandel, Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipient and entrepreneur, dies at age 98

The family of Carnegie institutions extend their deepest condolences to the family of Morton L. Mandel, a lifelong philanthropist who was cofounder, CEO, and chairman of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation and a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. He died October 16 in Florida at age 98.

One of nine medal recipients in 2019, Mandel was recognized for embodying the philanthropic legacy of Andrew Carnegie. He had planned to accept the medal at a formal ceremony in New York City on October 16, but sadly died the same day.

Through his philanthropy, Mandel made it a priority to “invest in people with the values, ability, and passion to change the world.” Together with his brothers, he established the Mandel Foundation in 1953 to develop and support educational and leadership initiatives. The foundation also promotes the arts and humanities, particularly in Mandel’s native Cleveland, and fosters “just, inclusive, compassionate and democratic societies” in the U.S. and Israel.

Mandel wrote that a leader must “have principles and do the right thing.” Making it his mission to sustain and expand the impact of the foundation, Mandel awarded a generous grant to fund a new building and programs for the Mandel Institute for Social Leadership at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Recently the foundation also helped the Cleveland Clinic create the Mandel Global Leadership and Learning Institute. The enduring impact of Mandel’s giving extends beyond those institutions to the leaders he helped cultivate, and today they are making a difference in fields ranging from education to health care.

Born to modest circumstances in 1921, Mandel’s immigrant parents taught him the value of selflessness and self-reliance — traits that would become hallmarks of his philanthropy. At 19, Mandel left Adelbert College, now Case Western Reserve University, without finishing his degree to join his brothers in founding Premier Automotive Supply. Going public in 1960, the company later merged to become Premier Farnell PLC, now a $3 billion multinational electronics corporation.

In 2013, Mandel returned to Case Western and completed the bachelor’s degree he had started 75 years earlier. He is survived by his wife Barbara, three children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Thomas H. Kean, Chair, Board of Trustees, Carnegie Corporation of New York; Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York; William Thomson, CBE, Honorary Chair, Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Photo: Nannette Bedway

Paul G. Allen, Philanthropist and Visionary Technologist: In Memoriam

Paul G. Allen, Philanthropist and Visionary Technologist: In Memoriam

Carnegie Corporation of New York and the entire family of Carnegie institutions in the United States and Europe mourn the death of Paul G. Allen, a recipient of the 2015 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. Devoting his great fortune to serving humanity, Mr. Allen was a leading supporter for advancements in the realms of health, medicine, and the environment. His generosity also helped establish in Seattle the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Allen Institute for Cell Science. As a member of the Giving Pledge, he committed to giving away the majority of his fortune, and his philanthropic endeavors exceed $2 billion to date.

Carnegie Corporation of New York
Janet L. Robinson, Chair, Board of Trustees
Thomas H. Kean, Honorary Chair, Board of Trustees
Vartan Gregorian, President

Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy
William Thomson, CBE, Honorary Chair


Learn more about Paul G. Allen and the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.

Carnegie Corporation of New York and the entire family of Carnegie institutions in the United States and Europe mourn the death of H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest

H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, Philanthropist and Civic Leader: In Memoriam

Carnegie Corporation of New York and the entire family of Carnegie institutions in the United States and Europe mourn the death of H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a recipient of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. We extend our condolences to his wife, Marguerite, and to the rest of the Lenfest family. Mr. Lenfest was a visionary philanthropist, an esteemed citizen of Philadelphia, and an ardent defender of American journalism and of the people’s voice in his home state of Pennsylvania. Gerry Lenfest worked diligently to preserve and to guarantee the independence of the newspapers of Philadelphia. Today the Lenfest Institute for Journalism is the largest public-benefit news organization in the U.S., committed to protecting the integrity of journalism in the region and fostering its evolution to a digital format.

Vartan Gregorian, President
Janet L. Robinson, Chair, Board of Trustees
Carnegie Corporation of New York


Learn more about H. F. “Gerry” Lenfest and the Lenfest Institute.

A Tribute to the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Honorees

A Tribute to the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Honorees

On a beautiful October afternoon, more than 300 distinguished guests — including Vartan Gregorian, Yo-Yo Ma, and Big Bird! — gathered in the Beaux-Arts splendor of The New York Public Library’s Bartos Forum to salute the “awe-inspiring” munificence of this year’s medalists


It was a day to honor those who use their success and stature to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. More than 300 guests came to The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Tuesday, October 3. The reason? To celebrate nine of the most influential philanthropists on the planet, recipients of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, named in honor of the “father of modern philanthropy,” Andrew Carnegie.

A bagpiper led the procession of the medalists into the Bartos Forum, a tribute to Carnegie’s Scottish heritage. After a round of applause for the medalists, Tony Marx, president of The New York Public Library, welcomed the guests with remarks about the power of philanthropy. Marx then welcomed the president of Carnegie Corporation New York, Vartan Gregorian, who enlightened the crowd about the exceptional achievements of this year’s medalists. “Indeed, the munificence of the Carnegie Medal recipients is not only remarkable, but awe-inspiring,” said Gregorian. “You are living examples of Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic legacy and of those who have followed in his footsteps. You have all dedicated not only your personal wealth, but your reputations, your time, and your talents to causes of deep significance to you and to your communities: namely education, international peace, the environment, the arts, the protection of our democracy, and much, much more.” Gregorian then introduced a video explaining the origin and the purpose of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

As the morning moved to afternoon, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble took to the stage to perform a selection of instrumental songs and dances, highlighted by Sandeep Das’s haunting tabla solo.


Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble


Dr. Gregorian welcomed the day’s master of ceremonies, BBC World News America presenter Katty Kay, who touched on a variety of themes as she warmed up the crowd before the presentation of the medals. “Today,” said Kay, “philanthropy is being called upon to play an even greater national and international role — in fighting poverty and other global ills, in funding research and development on issues like climate change and nuclear nonproliferation, and in sustaining democracy at home and around the world. Helping the people and the causes that need it most must always be the priority. Our former, current, and future medalists are all keenly aware of this.”


Katty Kay


Kay then brought each of the medalists on stage in turn, displaying videos detailing their philanthropic efforts.

Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest spoke of the moment they came into great wealth. “All of a sudden,” recalled Gerry Lenfest, “I was a billionaire. Having all that money made me think of one word — responsibility. I came to certain conclusions. Not to die with wealth.” The couple also spoke of their philosophy of giving, noting that they wanted professionals running their organizations, not family or friends.

Next, Sir James Wolfensohn accepted the medal with a salute to the American dream: he came to this country from Australia with nothing — and, with success, he has gone on to make a real difference in the world. He offered some commentary on the modern state of giving. “With the younger generation,” he observed, “it’s very useful to pass on the lessons I’ve learned. Many of them know a lot about technology, but don’t know very much about giving money away.”

Next to the stage was Kristine Tompkins, who proudly sported a bracelet crafted — on the spot — from the Carnegie tartan of her cloth napkin ring. She focused her statement on the satisfaction she finds through her work in philanthropy. “Getting up every day and focusing on the things we love has brought new dimensions into our personal lives that we never thought imaginable.”

When Azim Premji took the stage, philanthropy’s global progress came front and center. Premji remarked on the differences between succeeding in business versus philanthropy. “The time dimensions are much longer in philanthropy. It requires significantly more patience, more sustaining power and a larger base of people.”

The afternoon took quite a turn with the next guest. Big Bird was accompanied by Sherrie Westin, executive vice president for Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. Big Bird told the crowd about his Yellow Feather Fund, which brings educational materials to children in need all around the world. Before he left the stage, Dr. Gregorian couldn’t help but steal a quick hug from the very big, very yellow Big Bird.


Big Bird with Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York and Sherrie Westin, Executive VP, Sesame Workshop.


Then, back to the medalists. Kay welcomed Shelby White, who spoke about her personal connection to the causes that she supports and also touched on the changing nature of philanthropy. “I would hate,” White cautioned, “to see philanthropy become something that is totally obsessed with measurable results, near term.”

The global nature of the 2017 honorees was reinforced when Mei Hing Chak accepted her medal. Chak spoke about some of the differences between China and other parts of the world when it comes to giving. “I hope that helping others can become a social custom in China. And I hope that philanthropy can become a type of social culture.”

The man known by many as the “Wizard of Wall Street” had a very specific focus when acknowledging his medal. Julian Robertson said: “I think the environment is extremely important, and want to see there is a world that our progeny can live in. We have to work if we want that to happen.”

Unfortunately, Jeff Skoll, the final medalist honored at the luncheon, was unable to attend the ceremony. Skoll’s parents, Mort and Judy Skoll, accepted the medal on his behalf, while Sally Osberg, CEO of the Skoll Foundation, spoke about Jeff Skoll’s commitment to creating an organization that works toward a world of peace and prosperity.

Katty Kay concluded the afternoon by summing up the sentiments of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy with a quote from Andrew Carnegie himself: “Wealth is not to feed our egos, but to feed the hungry and to help people help themselves.”

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A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy

A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy

Competing views on the role of philanthropy in today’s political landscape took center stage at Carnegie Corporation of New York on Thursday as a panel of leading experts discussed the most pressing issues facing the sector and its role in society. The question at stake: is the unprecedented giving from Americans, billionaires, and ordinary citizens alike proof of the generosity and care of American civil society, or is it a symptom of a larger crisis of democracy?

Karl Zinsmeister, author of What Comes Next? How Private Givers Can Rescue America in an Era of Public Frustration, ignited the lively discussion, claiming that philanthropy is inherently egalitarian, serving as a democratic counterbalance to government power. “Philanthropy is the first crowdsourced industry in this country,” Zinsmeister said. “Philanthropy is a mosaic. It’s a lot of people working together in local areas with tremendous effect.” Later in the discussion he added that philanthropy “is the most radically decentralized sector in our country. This is the place with the least concentration of power of any place you can mention.” Zinsmeister believes that philanthropy—a multitude of even disconnected philanthropic groups—is better equipped than government to take on the challenges of the day.

David Callahan, author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age, was more critical. In his view, government is retreating from many of its traditional roles, and philanthropy is part of the problem rather than the solution. “Anybody who’s concerned about civic inequality caused by economic inequality needs to look at the philanthropic center as part of a broad reform,” Callahan asserted. “If you’re interested in reforming money in politics, you can’t leave out philanthropic money.” He continued that while philanthropy is generously subsidized by tax payers, philanthropists often don’t accurately address the concerns of the people they mean to serve. Without government leadership there will be negative consequences for society: “Increasingly, the wealthy wield a lot more influence in civil society, if you look at the statistics on charitable donations, the donations coming from wealthy Americans have skyrocketed. The amount of donations coming from ordinary Americans has gone down. That reflects inequality.”

Zinsmeister countered: it is the politicization of civil society, not money, that is the problem: “Money is overrated. Money is not the decisive influence it is sometimes portrayed as. The amount of money we spend on politics is less than we spend on chewing gum. . . . There is too little money in politics. Not too much. We have insisted on politicizing everything. If you can remove ideas and social projects out of the governmental sector and deal with them in other sectors, that political fire goes out.”

Meanwhile, Boston Globe investigative journalist Sacha Pfeiffer added that with virtually no government oversight of philanthropic giving or of the philanthropic sector itself, it is increasingly important for the media to act as a watchdog, making sure organizations meet their objectives, and retain the public’s trust. “Even when information is in the public domain, it doesn’t mean the public knows how to find it. It’s the responsibility of reporters to make sure the information is accessible.”

The debate about the role of philanthropy in an ever-changing political climate engaged the audience. About 100 people were in attendance at Carnegie Corporation of New York’s headquarters in New York City, and the event was live-streamed on Facebook Live.

After the conclusion of the panel discussion, 2005 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipient Agnes Gund took the stage to announce this year’s recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.


Agnes Gund—an honoree herself in 2005—announces the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipients, with Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, looking on.


The 2017 honorees are:

Mei Hing Chak China; HeungKong Charitable Foundation
H. F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest U.S.A.; Lenfest Foundation
Azim Premji India; Azim Premji Foundation
Julian Robertson U.S.A.; Robertson Foundation
Jeff Skoll U.S.A.; Skoll Foundation
Kristine McDivitt Tompkins U.S.A.; Tompkins Conservation
Shelby White U.S.A.; Leon Levy Foundation
Sir James D. Wolfensohn U.S.A. and Australia; Wolfensohn Center for Development

The Carnegie institutions will award the medals during a formal ceremony at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on October 3, 2017. Katty Kay, anchor of BBC World News America, will serve as master of ceremonies.

The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy forum on the challenges facing the philanthropic sector featured: David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy; Sacha Pfeiffer, investigative reporter at the Boston Globe covering wealth, nonprofits, and philanthropy; and Karl Zinsmeister, vice president of The Philanthropy Roundtable. Moderated by Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the June 22 forum was held at Carnegie Corporation of New York’s headquarters in New York City.

A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy

A New Landscape of Giving: Power, Policy, and Philanthropy


Forum Event

Watch the Forum on Facebook Live at:


Thursday, June 22, 2017, 12:30 p.m.– 2:00 p.m.

To mark the announcement of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy honorees, join us for a discussion about the challenges facing the philanthropic sector.



David Callahan

Founder and Editor of Inside Philanthropy and author of The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age

Sacha Pfeiffer

Investigative Reporter at the Boston Globe, covering wealth, nonprofits, and philanthropy

Karl Zinsmeister

Creator of The Almanac of American Philanthropy and Vice President at The Philanthropy Roundtable



Stacy Palmer

Editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy



Vartan Gregorian

President of Carnegie Corporation of New York


The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, created at the centennial observance of Andrew Carnegie’s official career as a philanthropist, is given biennially to one or more individuals who, like Mr. Carnegie, have dedicated their private wealth to the public good and who have impressive careers as philanthropists. Medalists are chosen through an international selection committee comprised of the leadership of several of the more than 20 organizations established by Mr. Carnegie. This forum is the first in a series highlighting philanthropy as a catalyst for innovation and positive change.



Carnegie Corporation of New York is a philanthropic foundation established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and strengthening our democracy.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has been helping nonprofits of all missions and sizes understand the news and trends that matter most for nearly 30 years. In addition to its journalism, the Chronicle publishes opinion and analysis on big ideas, and compiles signature data pieces, such as its “Philanthropy 50,” ranking America’s most generous donors, and “How America Gives,” a geographic look at who donates the most.