Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Atheist gives $5.6M to New York Catholic schools

Retired hedge fund titan Robert W. Wilson lost his faith in God years ago, yet he believes in Catholic schools and gave $5.6 million to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York this summer.

It’s the latest of many gifts from Wilson to the city’s Catholic hierarchy and educators, this one aimed at funding the Catholic Alumni Partnership, a program he founded that helps elementary schools track down their 750,000 alumni and recruit them as donors.

“Most of what the Catholic schools teach are the three Rs,” said Wilson, 83, in a phone interview, referring to reading, writing and arithmetic. “And they do it better than the union-controlled inner-city schools.”

Wilson, a Detroit native, said he began questioning the existence of God after enrolling in Amherst College in Massachusetts to study economics.

“Religious people say you couldn’t have our surrounding environment without the Creator, but then who created the Creator?” Wilson said.

He made his fortune as a growth-stock investor at his firm, Wilson Associates, taking $15,000 in 1949 and turning it into $225 million by 1986 when he retired at age 60.

He stopped investing after retirement and entrusted his wealth among a dozen money managers. He then started giving money to conservation causes such as the World Monuments Fund, Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Wilson said he has donated more than $550 million to charity and wants to give away 70 percent of his wealth before he dies.

Wilson began making donations to the New York archdiocese in 1997 with a gift of $10,000, and he continued at that level for several years. Then Susan George, executive director of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, asked him to consider giving more money to the schools. Wilson responded in 2007 with a $22.5 million gift to the archdiocese’s Cardinal’s Scholarship Program. He later saw a need for a better alumni support network.

His atheism wasn’t an issue with the archdiocese. Rev. Timothy M. Dolan, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, said in an e-mail statement to Bloomberg News that he was “grateful” to Wilson “for his vision” and the archdiocese needs to “enlist broad and sustained support from our alumni to secure the future” of the schools.


  1. God Blesses everyone including atheist! Its what we do with our blessings is what makes us a kindly loving people or a greedy arogant selfish person. Mr Wilson hopefully has many years to determine his fate in the after life, I think he is surely on the right road. God bless Mr. Wilson for his generous donation to such a worthy cause. As long as Mr Wilson is on this side of the grave there is a chance that one day he will see some light. I do not think Wilson is peaking out of The Fox hole I just think God has granted him the grace of a very generous heart. Blessings to all especially Mr Wilson. Jeremy

  2. can he also help for our shrine in the philippines?we the divine mercy apostolate are looking for benefactors.please help us.

  3. Ummm... then Mr. Wilson must think the Archdiocesan schools don't actually do a very good job of passing on the actual Catholic FAITH.... am I right???

    If I were the Cardinal, I'd take that money as an admonishment, on some level.