The Aaron Diamond Foundation: AIDS Research in New York City

Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society (Duke)



In 1987, New York City Commissioner of Health Stephen C. Joseph asked representatives of the Aaron Diamond Foundation to convene a group of private funders to finance the establishment of a world-class AIDS research laboratory in the heart of New York. Led by Irene Diamond, dynamic widow of a wealthy real estate developer, the foundation funded programs in medical research, minority education, and culture in New York City. The foundation had an unusual mandate to spend down its approximately $200 million within ten years of activation. Through two years of internal power struggles after the death of Aaron Diamond, Executive Director Vincent McGee helped Mrs. Diamond to gain control of the foundation and establish a thoughtful grantmaking program. In the face of the rapidly expanding AIDS epidemic that had ravaged the city and frightened New Yorkers, the impatient Mrs. Diamond was intrigued by Commissioner Joseph’s request but was hesitant to partner with the city and to collaborate with a large group of foundations.



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