The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at Forty

An excerpt from Chapter 1:

"In 1936, Robert Wood Johnson, the president and chairman of the board of Johnson & Johnson (J&J), established the Johnson New Brunswick Foundation to conduct his charitable giving in New Brunswick and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey. For the first three and a half decades of its existence, the Foundation—which in 1952 became the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—made nearly all of its donations to hospitals and other health care organizations, community-service programs, nursing, scholarships, and aid to the indigent.

Robert Wood Johnson died in 1968. After providing for family members, he left the bulk of his estate—shares in J&J—to the Foundation bearing his name. By the time the estate was settled three years later, the shares were valued at $1.2 billion, making the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation the second richest foundation in the nation. In fact, the night after the new Foundation’s endowment was reported in the newspapers, burglars broke into the Foundation’s offices on Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick looking to help themselves to the $1.2 billion. They left empty-handed.

The Foundation’s early trustees were, for the most part, current and past senior executives at J&J (a notable exception being William McChesney Martin, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board). Gustav Lienhard, the former J&J chief financial officer and chairman of the company’s executive committee, chaired the Foundation Board with an iron hand until his retirement in 1985. Early on, the Board determined that in accordance with Robert Wood Johnson’s interests, the new philanthropy would concentrate on advancing health and health care in the United States, and to press that agenda, it recruited David Rogers, the dean of the Johns Hopkins Medical School, as the Foundation’s first president."


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