William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation



Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2015):

Revenue: $8,093,156
Expenses: $56,919,154
Assets: $397,233,646




Private Foundation


Ute Bowes

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The William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation was created by William K. Bowes, Jr., a venture capitalist who founded U.S. Venture Partners, a company that was an early investor in the biotechnology firm Amgen and the computer company Sun Microsystems. The foundation supports educational institutions, charities in the San Francisco Bay Area, medical charities, and environmental organizations, but it does make some grants to center-right nonprofits, including the Cato Institute, Hoover Institution, and Independent Institute.

William K. Bowes, Jr.

William K. Bowes, Jr. served in the U.S. Army in the Philippines during World War II and in post-war Japan. He later attended Stanford and earned an MBA from Harvard. After working for the investment bank Blyth and Company, he founded U.S. Venture Partners in 1981. This venture capital firm was an early “seed” investor in the biotechnology firm Amgen and the computer firm Sun Microsystems. 1

Bowes retired from the Amgen board in 2002 and became a full-time philanthropist. He was on the executive committee of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; chairman of the board of The Exploratorium, a science museum; and on the board of the University of California, San Francisco Foundation. 2 Accepting an award from the Independent Institute in 2008, Bowes said philanthropy was “really fun” and “was more fun than golf and more fun than toys.” 3

Stem Cell Research

In 2004, by a 59-41 margin, Californians passed Proposition 71, which authorized the state to create the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a state agency conducting research on embryonic stem cells. William K. Bowes, Jr. contributed $1.3 million to this effort. Other major contributors to the “Yes on 71” campaign included Pierre Omidyar, Bill Gates, and then-U.S. Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ). 4

After the initiative passed, the People’s Advocate and National Tax Limitation Foundation argued that the creation of the Institute was unconstitutional as the measure formed a state agency not subject to oversight. In 2006, five foundations and one investment trust bought $13 million in “bond anticipation notes” to keep the institute running until the courts could determine the institute’s constitutionality. The Jacobs Family Trust contributed $5 million, and the Bowes, Moores, Broad, and Benificus Foundations each donated $2 million.  Blum Family Partners, created by the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) gave $1 million. 5 Later in 2006 the California Supreme Court declared the Institute constitutional, and the investors were repaid. 6

The Bowes Foundation has continued to contribute to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, providing $5 million in 2015 7 and $2.5 million in 2019. 8

Universities and Culture

The two largest grants made by the Bowes Foundation was a pledge of $50 million to the University of California, San Francisco Foundation in 2016 9 and $48.4 million to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for construction of a new building to house the conservatory. 10 The building was completed and opened in February 2022. 11


The Bowes Foundation’s three largest grants in 2019 were to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music ($6.1 million), Stanford University ($4.3 million) and the University of California (San Francisco) Foundation ($3.2 million).  The foundation donated to three center-right nonprofits:  Independent Institute ($500,000), Cato Institute ($100,000) and the Hoover Institution ($100,000). 12


  1. “Remembering Bill Bowes:  Visionary Investor and Philanthropist,” press release from Amgen, December 31, 2016,—visionary-investor-and-philanthropist (accessed March 18, 2022)
  2. Tornio Green, “William Bowes JR., Founder of USVP, Dies,” Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2017
  3. “William K. Bowes, Jr (1926-2016) In Memoriam,” video produced by the Independent Institute, February 20, 2017, (accessed March 18, 2022)
  4. John M. Broder and Andrew Pollack, “Californians to Vote on Spending $3 Billion on Stem Cell Research,” New York Times, September 20, 2004.
  5. Andrew Pollack, $14 Million For Research on Stem Cells,” New York Times, April 5, 2006.
  6. Ceara O’Brien, “California Proposition 71 (2004){ The Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Arizona State University, (accessed March 18, 2022)
  7. “Stem Cell Board Sends Strong, Unambiguous Message,” press release from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, December 17, 2015
  8. 2019 William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation Form 990.
  9. “Largest Private Gifts to Higher Education, 2016,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 27,2017
  10. Thomas May, “San Francisco Conservatory of Music Gets $46 Million Gift,” New York Times, April 25, 2018.
  11. [1] “From ‘Tigers on Parade’ To 100 Years o San Francisco Opera, San Francisco’s Arts Scene Roars To Life in 2022,” press release from the San Francisco Travel Association, February 1, 2022.
  12. 2019 William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation form 990.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: January 1, 1992

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2015 Dec Form PF $8,093,156 $56,919,154 $397,233,646 $142,843,080 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form PF $164,704,297 $65,424,549 $456,403,578 $146,268,453 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2013 Dec Form PF $13,420,873 $71,099,872 $352,588,062 $136,340,481 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2012 Dec Form PF $4,393,526 $70,791,522 $350,922,939 $106,045,533 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF
    2011 Dec Form PF $122,145,217 $22,684,515 $359,228,314 $69,507,944 $0 $0 $0 $0 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation

    1660 BUSH ST STE 300
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94109-5308