Also see Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation (nonprofit)
The Robertson Foundation is a foundation created by hedge fund investor Julian H. Robertson, Jr. and his wife, Josie Robertson. It is not to be confused with the Robertson Foundation for Government, a nonprofit that is the successor to the Robertson Foundation, a supporting organization of Princeton University that was dissolved in 2009. It is a financial supporter of numerous environmentalist groups, most prominently the Environmental Defense Fund, of which Robertson, Jr. is a board member.
Julian H. Robertson, Jr. made his fortune through the Tiger Management hedge fund, which was dissolved in 2000. In 1990, he created the Tiger Foundation to encourage the partners of the fund to be active donors. “I count the Tiger Foundation as the most successful venture I have had a hand in starting,” Robertson said in his statement endorsing The Giving Pledge. However, a 2007 analysis of the Tiger Foundation from Bridgespan states that Julian Robertson ceased playing an active role in the Tiger Foundation in 1997.
Robertson set up two foundations in the late 1990s. The Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation, founded in 1997 and named for Julian H. Robertson, Jr.’s parents, is a community foundation supporting charities in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Areas of Interest
Robertson Scholars Program
The Robertson Scholars Program is a scholarship program that allows students to jointly attend the University of North Carolina and Duke University, and received $8 million from the Robertson Foundation in 2015. The program was begun with $12 million grants to the two schools in 2000, and has continued with annual donations since then. According to Robertson’s biographer, Daniel A. Strachtman, the program began when Robertson realized “that these two schools are about nine miles apart, and there has really not been much interaction between the two schools except a legendary sports rivalry. He believes that by encouraging interaction between the two schools, a community will emerge between the institutions that is something more that who wins or loses a basketball game.”
The foundation’s environmental programs began when Robertson met Fred Krupp, who has been president of the Environmental Defense Fund since 1984. In his Giving Pledge statement, Robertson said that he worked with Krupp in an effort to pass “a bill pushing the toughest auto emissions standards ever imposed…. Fred and I went to work, and with just a little lobbying money, and a lot of help from a friend in California, got me the three votes needed to pass the bill. This was a huge thrill for me personally. The California bill became the model that thirteen states adopted and eventually became the national standard for autos.”:
Julian Robertson is currently a member of the EDF board, and EDF received $19.3 million from the Robertson Foundation in 2015. In 2015 the Robertson Foundation, along with the Helsing-Simmons, Alfred P. Sloan, and Walton Family Foundations and the TomKat Charitable Trust, were key backers of a multi-year, $18 million project to determine if methane emissions can be reduced in fracking to make it more environmentally friendly.
Julian Robertson has also contributed to ClearPath Action, a political action committee designed to fund Republicans who support environmentalist policy proposals. In a 2015 opinion piece for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Robertson and MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch said that their two foundations “are committed to investing in ideas and policies” that would promote “a safer, more sustainable climate…We urge everyone to join us in demanding climate solutions that build global prosperity.”
Charter School Support
Charter schools have also been an interest of the Robertson Foundation. In Atlanta, the Robertson Foundation, along with the CF, Chick-fil-A, Gates, Marcus, and O. Wayne Rollins Foundations and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, contributed to the Drew Charter Junior and Senior Academy, successor to the Charles Drew Charter School, which has been operating in inner city Atlanta since 2001. The Drew Charter School, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Mark Niesse observed, “has become a model for achievement among students from low-income backgrounds, pulling up test scores competitive with those at schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods. Its strategy is being copied across the country.”
In New York City, the Robertson Foundation has backed Success Academy, headed by former city councilor Eva Moskowitz (D-Manhattan). In April 2016 the Robertson Foundation donated $25 million to Success Academy at a fundraising dinner that raised $35 million in an effort to enable Success Academy to expand from 34 to 100 schools.
In an interview with Philanthropy, Robertson said that at the banquet a New York Times reporter asked him if he had read articles in the Times criticizing Success Academy. “Indeed I have read your stories,” Robertson said, adding, “When I see a line a mile long for every child that gets in the school via lottery, I know there’s something food there that’s attracting people.”