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The RJR Nabisco Foundation announced last week that it will convene a conference for "break the mold'' educators next year.

The foundation will select 75 educators who have sought to foster innovation in K-12 public education to exchange their views on reform at a conference in Leesburg, Va., in June.

Anyone interested in nominating a candidate should write to the foundation, listing the nominee's name and address and a brief statement on why that individual should attend. Self-nominations will also be accepted. Nominations are due by Dec. 30.

For more information, call or write the òêò Nabisco Foundation, 1455 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004; (202) 626-7275.

The Knight Foundation has refocused its Excellence in Education program, created in 1988 to enhance undergraduate education at liberal-arts colleges, to emphasize partnerships between colleges and public schools.

"Our trustees have become concerned, along with most of society, with the quality of public school education, and indicated that they would like the program to be reoriented in that direction,'' A. Richardson Love Jr., Knight's education-program officer, said in a recent interview.

Knight has already invited some 35 college-school partnerships to apply for a pool of about $3 million in grants. The foundation expects to announce the winners next month.

Virginia Henke, a spokeswoman for the Miami-based foundation, described the shift as the first formalization of Knight's interest in K-12 education.

One foundation unlikely to be undergoing any large-scale expansion in the immediate future is the Lilly Endowment. Officials there are coping with the tremendous beating the endowment's pharmaceutical stocks have taken over the past year, part of an industrywide decline.

As of last week, the endowment's assets were worth about $2.9 billion, compared with about $4 billion a year ago, according to Laura Henn, a spokeswoman. A majority of the assets are invested in stock in Eli Lilly & Company, the giant pharmaceutical maker that endowed the foundation.

The decline in assets at the Lilly Endowment follows a tremendous expansion of activity at the Indianapolis-based foundation in recent years. "When the stock was rising it was absolutely astounding,'' said Joan Lipsitz, the vice president in charge of Lilly's education program.

In 1990, Lilly paid out $107.8 million in grants and approved $228 million worth of new grants, a record high that included several large multi-year programs. Last year, it disbursed $130 million in existing grant commitments and authorized $98 million in new grants.

As for the effects of the current financial situation on future grant-making, Ms. Lipsitz stressed that she "wouldn't want any potential grantees to be panicking.'' She said Lilly will continue grant-making in all its key program areas, such as middle-grades reform, reading improvement in grades 4-9, and strengthening the teacher force.

"I think what's really important is that there is no question about meeting current obligations,'' Ms. Lipsitz said. "A billion dollars is a lot of money [to lose], but when you still have three billion that's also a lot. What this will do is lead to extremely careful planning and priority-setting, but it will not lead to a radically changed set of priorities.''

During National Community Foundation Week next week, the Columbus Foundation in Ohio will present its first "American Philanthropy Award'' to Don Munro, the founder of Munro & Company, an Arkansas shoe manufacturer.

Mr. Munro is a former president of the Arkansas Community Foundation. As the president of the Footwear Industries of America trade association, he encouraged other footwear companies to donate thousands of pairs of shoes to low-income schoolchildren.

The Arkansas businessman was selected by a panel that included Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children's Defense Fund; the commentator Bill Moyers; and John Corbally, the president emeritus of the University of Illinois.

Mr. Munro serves on the board of the Hot Springs Area Community Foundation and is a member of an Arkansas commission on adult literacy that was set up by President-elect Bill Clinton.

The new award will be given annually to recognize an outstanding individual involved in community-foundation work.

Gifts to the nation's 400 most popular nonprofit institutions increased 5.8 percent last year, according to a survey published last week in The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The rankings of the newspaper's "Philanthropy 400'' were calculated on the basis of the amount of money charities received from individuals, foundations, and corporations in fiscal 1990 and 1991.

The charity receiving the largest amount of contributions was the United Jewish Appeal, which received $668.1 million in 1991.

Higher-education institutions accounted for 143 of the 400 organizations. Also on the list were the Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, the Institute of International Education, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and the United Negro College Fund.--M.S.

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