- Historic Sites
Frederick T. Gates And John D. Rockefeller
April 1955 | Volume 6, Issue 3
But while Gates’s achievements as Rockefeller’s business adviser were impressive, his enduring contributions to American welfare were made in his thirty years of philanthropic planning. Into this work went his unquenchable enthusiasm, his creative flashes, his most “pregnant ideas"—to use his own term. In this field he proved himself one of the bold leaders of his time. Had a plodder, a man of lukewarm scientific temperament, a person of incurious mind, stepped into the place made for Gates, how much the country would have lost! The opportunity was truly extraordinary. The money, the circumstances, were ready; could the men be provided? The dividends of the Standard Oil combination in 1896 went above $30,000,000; in 1900 they almost touched $47,000,000. The United States, its frontier closed, its pioneer age gone, was emerging into the urban and industrial era, with multitudinous new social problems; emerging to world responsibilities, its own fortunes linked as never before with those of other nations. Men of adventurous minds were needed to break open new paths. Even a fortune like Rockefeller’s could easily have been frittered away on temporary enterprises. Next to Rockefeller himself, to Gates must go the credit for the contribution made by the successive creations—the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, the General Education Board, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Gates was a pioneer in his field. Perhaps it is in part because he was a pioneer that his accomplishment looms up so large as compared with that of most subsequent administrators of foundation activities. But we may be sure that it was partly because in eagerness of mind, fiery earnestness of spirit, and capacity for grasping large designs, he was unique. Wealth to him was a means of reaching out into the infinite.