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Largest Donations Smaller in 2001


NEW YORK — There must be a recession--even Bill Gates is cutting back.

And he's not alone. The super-rich are becoming much more frugal with their charitable giving.

The 10 largest single gifts to charity in 2001 totaled $4.6 billion, down nearly 60% from $11.08 billion the previous year.

Gates, the chairman of Microsoft Corp., retained the top spot on the list of large individual gifts compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. But last year the world's richest man gave $2 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after donating $5 billion in 2000.

Last year was "just not as healthy a year, but that isn't surprising given the state of the economy," said Stacy Palmer, the Chronicle's editor.

The decline in the size of donations by the wealthy comes as average Americans opened their wallets with extraordinary generosity to help Sept. 11 victims.

"The kind of gifts given by the wealthy are dependent on the economy. It isn't the same as someone giving $20 to $30 for a cause, but the timing is ironic," Palmer said.

The Chronicle compiles its lists from public announcements made through the year.

Gordon Moore, co-founder and chairman emeritus of Intel Corp., and his wife, Betty, are the only other individuals who also were on the top-10 list for 2000, and their donation also dropped.

Their $300-million pledge to Caltech for science and education programs was the third-largest on the 2001 list. In 2000, their $5-billion pledge to endow the Gordon E. and Betty I. Moore Foundation shared top honors with Gates' gift.

The second-largest gift last year was a $1.11-billion pledge by Jim Stowers and his wife, Virginia, to endow the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

Rounding out the top five were Bill Coleman, founder of BEA Systems in San Jose, and his wife, Claudia, who pledged $250 million to create a research institute operated by the University of Colorado system. The couple tied for fourth with Ted Turner, founder of CNN and Turner Broadcasting System, whose pledge went to establish a Nuclear Threat Initiative. The fifth-largest donation was an anonymous pledge of $230 million for unrestricted use at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

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