The namesake of this foundation, Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937), made his fortune with Mellon Bank, Union Savings Bank, Gulf Oil, the American Locomotive Company, Pittsburgh Coal, and ALCOA. He also served as Secretary of the Treasury under U.S. Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. He gave away some $10 million during his lifetime, mostly to educational and charitable organizations. A good deal of his money was also earmarked to help establish the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
- Assets: $5,051,529,429 (2009)
- Grants Awarded: $216,162,235 (2009)
Three years after Andrew W. Mellon's death, his daughter, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, established the Avalon Foundation. In 1941 his son, Paul Mellon, set up the Old Dominion Foundation. In 1969, these two foundations merged to form the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Former Princeton University president William Bowen has been the Mellon Foundation's President since 1988. Under his leadership, the Foundation's grantmaking priorities have moved decidedly to the political left, focusing increasingly on racial preferences and "diversity" initiatives. In 1998 Bowen co-authored (with Derek Bok) the book The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions which defends the use of race preferences in college admissions, and questions the validity of "merit" as a measurable academic trait.
The Mellon Foundation identifies its current philanthropic priorities as: "higher education, museums and art conservation, performing arts, conservation and the environment, and public affairs." The Foundation's "Higher Education and Scholarship Program" (HESP) supports initiatives to "strengthen selective research universities in the United States, with particular emphasis on the humanities and 'humanistic' social sciences." Another primary funding objective of HESP is to support organizations dedicated to "racial justice." This emphasis is based on the premise that American society generally, and academia in particular, is rife with racial inequity and discrimination that takes its greatest toll on blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians.
In an effort to remedy these perceived injustices, in 1989 the Mellon Foundation established its Mellon Minority Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program, whose original mission was "to increase the number of highly qualified candidates for PhDs in core fields within the arts and sciences who come from minority groups that are seriously underrepresented in these fields—principally African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.".A strong backer of race preferences both in business and academia, the Mellon Foundation lauded the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court ruling which upheld affirmative action in the University of Michigan's admissions policies. The Foundation embraces the notion that "the pursuit of educational diversity by colleges and universities is a compelling interest for the nation," and asserts that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion (that affirmative action would probably be a necessary counterbalance to America's inherent racism for another 25 years) "provides even stronger support for this objective than was provided by Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke."
Since the Grutter v. Bollinger decision, the Mellon Foundation has broadened its Higher Education and Scholarship Program's mission "to reduce, over time, the serious underrepresentation on faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities." The Foundation has three emphases in its support of racial preferences as a means of shifting the demographics on American college campuses: hiring more minority faculty members; using the increased presence of these faculty members to increase the “retention” of minority students; and using this increased “diversity” to promote “cross-racial understanding.” The Mellon Foundation's "Conservation and Environment Program" (CEP) gives voice to an anti-capitalist, anti-development worldview. Throughout the Foundation's history, numerous Mellon CEP grants have been earmarked for the acquisition of private land, which in turn is sold to the federal government and is thereby effectively rendered off-limits to human habitation or development. The CEP continues to fund such land-acquisition initiatives by supporting the organization Trust for Public Land.
The Mellon Foundation's "Museums and Art Conservation" program is designed to help art museums "build and sustain their capacity to undertake serious scholarship on their permanent collections; to preserve these collections; and to share the results of their work in appropriate ways with scholarly and other audiences." The "Performing Arts" program provides multi-year grants to leading organizations in the disciplines of music, theater, dance, and opera. The "Population Program" (a composite of the formerly separate Population and Refugee programs) advocates in the areas of reproductive biology, contraceptive development, AIDS, poverty, immigration (both legal and illegal), and abortion services for refugees and immigrants.
Among the groups that have recently received Mellon Foundation grants are: the Aspen Institute; the Brookings Institution; Environmental Defense; the Environmental Working Group; Human Rights First; the Migration Policy Institute; the Tides Foundation; the Tides Center; the Trust for Public Land; the Urban Institute; and the World Resources Institute.
To view a list of additional noteworthy grantees of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, click here.
(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)