Rockefeller Brothers Fund Timeline

1980s: Global Interdependence

The 1980s saw the Fund focusing on issues at home and abroad in the areas of agricultural reform, post-apartheid democracy in South Africa, and nuclear non-proliferation. In New York City, it worked on the social toll of AIDS, affordable housing, sustainable urban development, and public education.

In 1980 the Fund helped establish the American Farmland Trust (AFT), the first national, nonprofit institution committed exclusively to the conservation of agricultural resources.

The Eastern Caribbean Natural Area Program was a cornerstone of the RBF’s Caribbean program, which focused on promoting the areas of sustainable development, natural resource conservation, and job creation in tandem with one another.

U.S. Farm Crisis

In 1980 the Fund initiated the RBF Awards in Arts Education to recognize and reward excellence in arts education in elementary and secondary schools across the United States.

Support for the New York City Partnership became one of the Fund’s primary means of expressing its commitment to New York City in the 1980s.

Supporting human rights and anti-apartheid concerns in South Africa since the 1960s, RBF deepened its interest in these fields by helping to establish the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) in Johannesburg.

In the 1980s, the RBF made grants to the Institute’s new educational advising program in China and to arts programs it acquired after a merger with Arts International.

In the 1980s, the Fund continued to work on strengthening the nonprofit sector in the United States, including support for Independent Sector, a new leadership network for nonprofit organizations, foundations, and corporations committed to the public good.

Throughout the 1980s, the RBF supported the EWI program in U.S.-Soviet relations, providing much-needed general support that enabled it to bring together European, American, and Soviet specialists and officials in a collaborative environment.

AIDS Epidemic

The One World Program was the Fund’s first major, comprehensive reorganization of its program architecture. Developed by a review committee chaired by David Rockefeller, Jr., One World was unveiled in 1983.

Created by the merger of agricultural nonprofits founded by Rockefeller brothers Winthrop and John 3rd, Winrock International works in more than 60 countries to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity, and sustain natural resources.

From 1986-1989, the RBF made grants to the Fund for the City of New York to support its work cultivating and coordinating private sector leadership in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The Fund’s grants to the Beijer Institute (the International Institute for Energy, Related Resources and the Human Environment) in Sweden were its first in climate change, an area with which it became increasingly concerned throughout the 1980s.

David Rockefeller, the youngest of the founding trustees, served as the Fund’s chairman beginning in 1980, and would be the last founding trustee to lead the Fund.

In 1987 the Fund set aside $2 million designated for the Program for Asian Projects to be used for small grants furthering the work of the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees, a program of Asia wide awards the Fund had established in the Philippines in 1957.

Building upon its broad work in East-West relations, the Fund seized an opportunity in the 1980s to revitalize Polish agriculture, aided by a personal involvement of RBF chair David Rockefeller and exploratory trips to Poland by Rockefeller Foundation agricultural expert and Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug.

William Dietel, president of the Fund since 1975, retired alongside David Rockefeller in 1987. Colin G. Campbell, then president of Wesleyan University, was selected to replace him as of July 1988.

Fall of the Berlin Wall