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General Education Board (1903–1960)

Total Assets: $180 million endowment

Total Giving (1934): $5.5 million

Total Giving: $324.6 million[1]

Prominent Grants: $659,700 for establishing demonstration farms in the South with the purpose of promoting agriculture. $41 million to promote higher education institutions in the United States.

Summary: The General Education Board was a philanthropy which was used primarily to support higher education and medical schools in the United States, to help rural white and black schools in the South, and to modernize farming practices in the South. The board was founded in New York City in February 1902 and chartered by the United States Congress on January 12, 1903, its object being the promotion of education throughout the United States, without distinction as to race, sex or creed. It helped eradicate hookworm and created the county agent system in American agriculture, linking research as state agricultural experiment stations with actual practices in the field.

The Board was created by John D. Rockefeller and Frederick T. Gates. Rockefeller endowed $180 million to the foundation. The foundation’s head, Frederick Gates, envisioned “The Country School of To-Morrow,” wherein “young and old will be taught in practicable ways how to make rural life beautiful, intelligent, fruitful, recreative, healthful, and joyous.” By 1934 the Board was making grants of $5.5 million a year. It spent nearly all its money by 1950 and closed in 1964, when its programs were subsumed into the Rockefeller Foundation.

In the 1940s the GEB began to struggle with decisions about its future and its legacy.

It began to wind down its program in 1953, committing the last of its principal funds to such groups as the Council of Southern Universities and the Council for Financial Aid to Education, which it had created with the collaboration of three other foundations to encourage the business community to support colleges and universities. The GEB finally closed its doors in 1964, having expended a total of $324.6 million since 1902.