“My wife and I discovered many years ago that there are more satisfying uses for money than simply accumulating it.”
It’s everyone’s dream: a check for a large amount of money appears out of the blue! Once DeWitt Wallace held a lunch to learn more about Outward Bound, aneducational program based on individual accomplishment through outdoor activity and adversity, which matched his philosophy exactly, and he put an envelope in company president Joshua Miner’s pocket. “Afterwards, I opened the envelope,” said Miner. “Inside was a letter and a check for one million dollars.”
So while many big names in philanthropy—Gates, Buffett, Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie—are well-known, they have lesser-known cousins: Lila and DeWitt Wallace. By the mid-1970s, calculated in those dollars, the Wallaces had already likely donated in excess of $100 million. Here’s a sampling of their generosity:
- Wallace Wing, Northern Westchester Hospital: $4 million
- Leonard Park, Mt. Kisco: 27 acres donated
- Boscobel, Garrison, NY: $8 million for historic building restoration
- Lila Wallace World of Birds, Bronx Zoo: $5 million for building
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: $50+ million, including Lila Wallace Wing of 20th–Century Art
Much of the money was given anonymously, or was for local use. DeWitt Wallace’s 1981 obituary in a local newspaper stated:
“The land for Leonard Park in Mount Kisco, the pagoda at the park’s skating pond, the family picnic area at the park, a $4 million matching grant for the modern addition to Northern Westchester Hospital, contributions to such endeavors at the Methodist Church Steeple Fund and the Lions Club Ambulance, both in Mt. Kisco, were among the publically acknowledged recipients of the Wallace generosity.”
By the mid-1980s, the Wallace philanthropies had evolved into two foundations: the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. They collectively provided $2 billion to artistic, cultural and educational causes. And today the combined Wallace Funds total $1.26 billion.
For more on the Wallaces’ remarkable legacy, visit the show!