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John Markle was an inventor, industrialist, and financier who established the John and Mary Markle Foundation in 1927 with an initial endowment of $3 million “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge among people of the United States, and to promote the general good of mankind.” He believed that an individual who has funds beyond those needed for living becomes “a trustee for his fellow man and should so use those funds.” He served as president and treasurer of the Foundation until his death in 1933. John Markle’s total financial contribution to the Foundation exceeded $17 million.
Mary Estelle Robinson Markle was a generous supporter of several New York City charities, in particular those whose work benefitted impoverished women. She was widely recognized as John Markle’s inspiration for the establishment of the Foundation, the first American institution of its kind to name both husband and wife as partners. This move, considered revolutionary for their times, affirmed the Markles' belief that the integration of a couple’s financial and social interests can impel the important societal changes needed to serve the greater good.
Thomas William Lamont was a banker, diplomat, and philanthropist who was a presidential advisor to Woodrow Wilson during World War I and to Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. He succeeded JP Morgan Jr. as president of Markle in 1942, and served in this capacity until 1947. He continued the work and vision of his predecessors by overseeing grant-making efforts that helped to promote advancement in medical science through research and academic excellence.
George Whitney was a banker and financier who took up the reins as Markle’s president after the death of Thomas Lamont. He further refined the Foundation’s mission to support advancements in medicine by instituting programs that focused more specifically on cultivating a new generation of leaders in academic medicine. He enjoyed his hands-on role in the selection of Markle Scholars, engaging with the nominees personally and fostering the spirit of collaboration that would become a hallmark of the Markle tradition. Whitney served as president of Markle from 1948 to 1959, and as chairman from 1960 to 1963.
John McFarlane Russell became Markle’s first executive director in 1946, serving under the presidencies of Thomas Lamont and George Whitney. In 1948, Russell launched the Markle Scholars-in-Medicine Program, through which 506 gifted practitioners from 91 medical schools around the country received more than $16 million in grants to encourage growth and strengthen the field of academic medicine. Russell was appointed president of Markle in 1960, and served in this capacity until 1969.
Lloyd N. Morrisett sought a new direction for John and Mary Markle’s original vision of “promoting the advancement and diffusion of knowledge,” and found it at the dawn of the Information Age. As a former vice president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and one of the founding members of the Children’s Television Workshop, which revolutionized educational programming with such milestone creations as Sesame Street, he began his tenure at Markle by initiating a program to advance the use of communications technologies to promote early childhood education, lifelong learning, and the ongoing cultivation of an informed citizenry. Morrisett served as president of the Foundation from 1969 to 1998.
View Lloyd Morrisett’s essays on Communications and Society.
Zoë Baird, CEO and President of the Markle Foundation, has had a diverse career in law, government, technology, and business. At Markle since 1998, she has led broad collaborations to drive transformative change for the economic security, health, and national security of all Americans. She currently leads Rework America, the Markle Economic Future Initiative that is pursuing opportunities for all Americans to participate in the economy of the future. Previously, she directed Markle’s efforts to use information technology to reform the intelligence community to meet current threats, and to drive improvements in the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care, work that led to passage of major federal laws and transformation of business practice.
View Zoë Baird’s Profile.