News and analysis
January 15, 2016

Facebook’s Sandberg Donates $31 Million; Netflix Founder Creates Education Fund


Sheryl Sandberg's gift will support nonprofits that help women and girls as well as poverty-fighting efforts and education groups.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

Sheryl Sandberg Philanthropy Fund

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, gave shares of stock valued at more than $31 million to her donor-advised fund late last year.

The money will support nonprofits that help women and girls, including Lean In, a nonprofit she started to foster female leadership, as well as poverty-fighting efforts and education groups.

Sandberg came to prominence outside of technology circles in 2010 for her now-famous speech "Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders" and the book that followed, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

The founder of Netflix, Reed Hastings, gave $100 million to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation to establish the Hastings Fund, a private philanthropy.

He plans to support education groups with the money and announced the first two grants from the foundation: a total of $1.5-million to the UNCF and the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley.

Neerav Kingsland, former chief executive of New Schools for New Orleans, will lead the Hastings Fund.

University of California at Irvine

Bill and Sue Gross pledged $40-million through their William and Sue Gross Family Foundation to the university to establish a nursing school and pay for a new building to house it.

Mr. Gross founded Pacific Investment Management Company, which he left in 2014 to join Janus Capital Group as the company’s lead portfolio manager.

Saint Louis Art Museum

Barbara and Andy Taylor have given the museum $21 million to endow its directorship.

The position will be named for Ms. Taylor, the museum’s former board president. Mr. Taylor is executive chairman of the Enterprise car-rental company.

Phillips Academy

Steve Snyder pledged $15 million to the private school to build a new athletic center.

Mr. Snyder founded the private investment firm Chester Partners. He graduated from the academy in 1956, and as a student athlete, he was captain of its varsity track team.


Kimberly Querrey and her husband, Louis Simpson, donated $15 million to endow the organization’s performing and visual-arts center.

Ms. Query is an Artis–Naples board member. The center will be named the Kimberly K. Querrey and Louis A. Simpson Cultural Campus.

The couple founded SQ Advisors, LLC, an investment advisory firm. Mr. Simpson is a former president and chief executive of Capital Operations for the insurance company GEICO Corporation.

Creighton Preparatory School

The Heider family gave a $10 million gift to the private school to establish and endow a program to attract and prepare students from low-income families.

Scott Heider, a 1981 graduate of the school, is a managing principal of Chartwell Capital, an investment firm in Omaha. His late father, Charles Heider, worked with Warren Buffett and eventually owned a large stake in Mr. Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Mayo Clinic Florida

John and Carolyn Sonnentag gave $10 million to create the John H. and Carolyn O. Sonnentag Fund for Neurosurgery Residency in Florida, which will endow programs to educate neurosurgery residents at the clinic.

The Sonnentags made the donation to honor Robert E. Wharen Jr., M.D., Mr. Sonnentag’s surgeon.

Five years ago Mr. Sonnentag was in so much pain he couldn’t sleep lying down, and he eventually lost his ability to walk. Doctors found a rare spinal tumor, but because of where it located, an operation was considered tricky.

The donor learned there were only three surgeons capable of operating. Two were at the clinic and one was Dr. Wharen, who performed the surgery in 2013. Today Mr. Sonnentag is able to walk again, and last year the couple danced at their 50th wedding anniversary party.

Detroit Institute of Arts

A former museum-shop volunteer and art teacher in the Detroit Public Schools left more than $1.7 million to the museum.

Elizabeth Verdow directed nearly $1.3 million of her bequest toward contemporary art acquisitions of painting and sculpture, and $450,000 toward the museum’s operating endowment.

Ms. Verdow died in 2014 at 86. She volunteered at the museum from 1990 to 2009 and was known among the staff there for her dedication to her volunteer work and her love of the arts.

Museum officials plan to name the fund into which her money will be placed the Elizabeth Verdow Contemporary Art Acquisition Fund. Works of art bought with the money will be identified with gallery labels bearing her name.

To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1 million or more, which is updated throughout the week.

Send an email to Maria Di Mento.