February 02, 2000 1 min read

Joining Forces: Two foundations that helped underwrite programs in education and the arts have consolidated to form the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Funds, a philanthropy that is expected to extend some $100 million in gifts this year.

The DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund combined resources in an attempt to be both more efficient and more effective, said M. Christine DeVita, the president of the new organization.

The New York City-based foundation has approximately $1.5 billion in total assets.

“We decided on this reorganization after a year of planning in which the driving question was ‘How can we have a greater impact as a philanthropy?’” Ms. DeVita said. “It became clear that by pooling our resources and aligning ourselves around the outcomes the two funds have been working toward individually, we could sharpen our focus, make more strategic investments, and produce greater value for society.”

Over the next five years, the philanthropy will switch its focus to address the need for educational leadership by developing programs for superintendents and principals, said Bruce S. Trachtenberg, the director of communications for the fund. Specific plans will be released this spring.

In the past, the DeWitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund worked to improve teaching and learning in public schools, Mr. Trachtenberg noted.

“Our work over the last 10 years in schools has taught us that unless we address the problem from the perspective of those who are running schools and districts, all the improvements we’re trying to support won’t take as widely because there are systemic issues that need to be addressed,” Mr. Trachtenberg said.

Children’s Health: Bill and Melinda Gates added another $5 billion to the coffers of their foundation last week to help pay for the development and global distribution of vaccines.

The money brings the endowment of the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to $21.8 billion.

Led by Bill Gates’ father, William H. Gates Sr., and co-chair Patty Stonesifer, the foundation is now the richest in the world, according to spokesman Joe Cerrell.

The foundation supports projects in lifelong learning, technology, and world health, and counts preventing deadly diseases among poor children as a central priority.

—Julie Blair

A version of this article appeared in the February 02, 2000 edition of Education Week