The Rockefeller Archive Center
“If we assist the highest forms of education – in whatever field – we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge.”
—John D. Rockefeller, Sr.

Rockefeller Related Organizations


Additional Details

John D. Rockefeller, Sr. founded the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial in October 1918 in memory of his wife. The State of New York incorporated the Memorial for general philanthropic purposes. During the eleven years of its existence, the Memorial broadened its interest in welfare issues to support of the social sciences. The endowment reached almost $74 million. During the early years, the Board of Trustees managed the Memorial's affairs. In 1922, the Board of Trustees appointed Beardsley Ruml Director of the Memorial. He guided the programs until the Memorial's consolidation with the Rockefeller Foundation in 1929.

The first thoughts for the programs of the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial were to five grants that followed the late Mrs. Rockefeller's interests in missionary work and support of the welfare of women and children. Support of the welfare of women and children did not develop fully until later in the Memorial's history. During the early years, the Memorial gave support to the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts. Appropriations to Mrs. Rockefeller's interest in missionary work occurred with the funding of $1 million to the Womens Christian Association and $366,666 to three missionary colleges in the Near East.

Considerable contributions from the Memorial supported organized emergency relief efforts in China and Europe. In the early twenties, the Memorial appropriated $785,000 to the American Relief Administration and to its affiliate, the Student Friendship Fund for food and clothing for teachers and students in Russian universities. The Memorial made contributions to or through the China Famine Fund, the League of Nations, and the American Red Cross.

After this initial period of giving, the trustees began to consider a more systematic approach to philanthropy. In May 1922, the Memorial appointed Beardsley Ruml Director. By October 1922, Ruml submitted a bold plan to the Trustees. This plan moved the Memorial further into the social sciences, into the fields of economics, sociology, political science, psychology, anthropology, and history. The Memorial did not abandon activities previously supported in leisure, public health, and emergency relief. They centered the focus of the program around three major programs: social science and science technology; child study and parent education; and interracial relations. Besides sponsoring research, the Memorial made grants to support the distribution of this knowledge. The aim of the entire program was to achieve concrete improvement in the conditions of life and contribute realistically to public welfare.

The Memorial sought to develop cooperative research among social scientists by giving appropriations to universities and to other research organizations. It sought practical applications of the results of the research. Schools of business, law, public administration, and social work received support. The Memorial aided the Atlanta School of Social Work, The New York School of Social Work, the schools at Tulane University and the University of Chicago, and the National Catholic School of Social Work.

The Social Science Research Council, organized in 1923 to correlate and stimulate research in the social sciences, received extensive grants. It promoted communication between students of social issues and sponsored cooperative research that drew on different disciplines. The Memorial funded Social Science Abstracts, a publication produced under the guidance of the Social Science Research Council. Other agencies that received aid from the Memorial were the Brookings Institution, the Institute of Pacific Relations, and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The Memorial was interested in supporting the people working in the social sciences through fellowships. The Social Science Research Council administered the Memorial's fellowships in the United States. Outside the United States, the Memorial worked with the aid of national advisors, granting 239 fellowships to scholars from Austria, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. Besides funding the fellowships, the Memorial appropriated funds for travel, conferences, and scientific journals, and to promote communications between specialists all over the world.

A national program concentrating on the children's welfare and parent education grew from the Memorial's early interests in women and children. Among the institutions receiving major support was the Child Study Association of America, Teachers College of Columbia, and the State University of Iowa. The program included support for research on the growth and development of children, the training of people working in the field, the preparation of books, pamphlets, study outlines, and other aids to help the parents.

The Memorial also took an interest in African-American history. Beginning in 1922, the Memorial assisted the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in conducting studies of social and economic conditions among Blacks since the Civil War. The association maintained close connections with various Black colleges and universities and trained personnel for their social science faculties. In 1927, the Memorial supported an interracial conference at Yale University that considered the basic problems of race relations in the United States.

On January 3, 1929, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial was consolidated with the Rockefeller Foundation. The Memorial made a final grant of $10,000,000 to the Spelman Fund of New York. The Spelman Fund, an independently incorporated board, administered appropriations in child study, parent education, and interracial education. The Fund continued to support some agencies previously supported by the Memorial for the duration of the particular grant, but the Fund's main program was in public administration and intergovernmental relations. The Memorial had just begun to develop this area when it was consolidated with the Rockefeller Foundation.

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