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The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation’s contributions to the University of Toronto have been an important part of its global philanthropic agenda in support of health, food, employment, cities, energy and innovation over the past century.

Established in 1913, the Rockefeller Foundation has disbursed more than US$17 billion in today’s dollars. Among its achievements, the foundation played a role in the founding of the field of public health, developed vaccines for diseases such as yellow fever and malaria, and led a global transformation of agriculture that has saved millions of lives.

Created by American industrialist John D. Rockefeller, the foundation is also a major supporter of educational institutions. It established the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and schools of public health at both Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities. It became a major benefactor of the University of Toronto following the discovery of insulin in 1921 by Frederick Banting and Charles Best.

The following year, the foundation donated several million dollars to U of T for a chair of surgery and to fund construction of anatomy and pathology labs. The foundation also helped establish the School of Hygiene, which housed the Departments of Hygiene and Preventive Medicine, Public Health Nursing, Epidemiology and Biometrics, and Physical Hygiene, as well as a Division of Industrial Hygiene. It incorporated the existing Connaught Laboratories, then a global leader in the development and manufacture of vaccines.

In 1933, further contributions helped create the School of Nursing, transforming the program at U of T from a diploma course for existing nurses into a fully-fledged bachelor’s degree program in a new departmental building at Queen’s Park Crescent. Other Rockefeller gifts helped found programs in Chinese Studies in 1934, and the Department of Slavic Studies in 1949.

The foundation’s leadership in global philanthropy for more than a century has had a tremendous impact. Its support for education and research at U of T has played a major role in building our impressive global legacy.