Largest U.S. donors named

Two hoteliers, the late Leona Helmsley and William Barron Hilton, topped Slate Magazine’s annual list of the 60 largest American donors last year.

The 2007 “Slate 60,” compiled by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, says Helmsley’s $4 billion gift is the fourth largest since it began its annual donor list in 1996.

Helmsley, who owes part of her fortune to real estate, bequeathed the mega-gift to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. The trust could end up being the seventh-largest in the U.S., depending on the ultimate size of Helmsley’s estate, currently estimated at $8 billion.

Hilton gave $1.2 billion to his father’s philanthropy, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which seeks to improve the lives of the world’s poor by funding sanitation systems, early childhood education, and housing for homeless mothers and children, among other things.

Universities and hospitals remained popular beneficiaries for leading philanthropists, with two of the top 10 donors providing at least one gift to a health care cause and four more donors giving to higher education.

Jon and Karen Huntsman gave $627 million to their foundation, which focuses on cancer research.

Denny Sanford donated $431 million to a variety of groups, including Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health Systems.

Columbia University, Cornell University, and Claremont McKenna College all received top-10 gifts, and several public universities also received donations from Slate 60 donors.

The dollar amounts of gifts that make the annual Slate list have escalated in the last three years.

In 2007, only donors giving $30 million or more made the list, and the median gift was $75 million, up from $60 million in 2006 and $32.5 million in 2005.

The magazine cited a handful of donors for their regularity.

All making the list at least five times since 1996 have been donors Peter Lewis; Eli and Edythe Broad; Larry Ellison; George Soros; Lorry Lokey; Pierre and Pam Omidyar; Jon and Karen Huntsman; Oprah Winfrey;  and Sandy and Joan Weill.

The Slate 60 calculates gifts and pledges made by individuals, not charitable foundations, and does not count payments on pledges from previous years.

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