The Hewlett Family
Nearly forty years after Bill and Flora Hewlett started the Hewlett Foundation in the living room of their Palo Alto house, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is one of the largest private foundations in the United States, with assets of more than $6 billion. The Foundation now makes hundreds of grants per year totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, but the principles that guide its grantmaking are the same as those that inspired them to begin the institution so many years ago—a sincere and heartfelt commitment to help build strong institutions that make a difference in the community and around the world.
Entrepreneur William R. Hewlett established the Hewlett Foundation in 1966 with his wife, Flora, and their eldest son, Walter B. Hewlett. For the first ten years, the Foundation, then known as the William R. Hewlett Foundation, made approximately $15.3 million in grants to organizations in education, population, the arts, and social services.
In 1977, Mrs. Hewlett died and the Foundation was renamed The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and her oldest daughter, Eleanor Hewlett Gimon, replaced her on the board. The bulk of Mrs. Hewlett’s fortune was transferred to the Foundation.
Highly respected for its work in the fields of conflict resolution, education, environment, performing arts, and population, the Foundation was a key source of funding to a host of institutions that provide vital services to disadvantaged Bay Area communities.
The Foundation’s assets increased to more than $2 billion, and annual grantmaking rose from $35 million in 1993 to $84 million in 1998. They focused at that time on environmental grantmaking on the Western United States and Canada, education funding, neighborhood improvement initiatives, and the U.S.-Latin American Relations Program.
Another foundation, the Flora Family Foundation was set up in 1998 and its grantmaking totaled $19.4 million in its first four years of operation. Perhaps as important is the fact that the Flora Family Foundation has given the next generation of Hewlett family members an opportunity to learn about philanthropy and to make a positive difference in the lives of others.
Representing the family at the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy is Eleanor Hewlett Gimon. In 1977 she joined the board of directors of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Family Foundation of North America and was also a trustee of Brown University for six years. She is also involved with the Flora Family Foundation, a foundation she created with her siblings to encourage the next generation to become active in philanthropy. In the spirit of Andrew Carnegie, Ms. Gimon noted “My father never expected to accumulate great wealth but when he did, it was clear to both of my parents that they had to give it away.”