Anna Harkness and Edward Stephen Harkness
The story of The Commonwealth Fund begins with the family of Stephen V. Harkness, an Ohio businessman who began his career as an apprentice harnessmaker at the age of 15. His instinct and vision led him to invest in the early refining of petroleum and to make a further investment at a critical moment in the history of the fledgling Standard Oil Company.
After her husband's death in 1888, Anna Harkness, Stephen's wife, moved her family to New York City, where she gave liberally to religious and welfare organizations and to the city's major cultural institutions. In 1918, she made an initial gift of nearly $10 million to establish a philanthropic enterprise with the mandate "to do something for the welfare of mankind," a broad and compelling challenge.
Anna Harkness placed the gift in the wise hands of her son Edward Stephen Harkness, who shared her commitment to building a responsive and socially concerned philanthropy. During his 22 years as president of the foundation, Edward Harkness added generously to the Fund's endowment and led a talented and experienced staff to rethink old ways, experiment with fresh ideas,
and take chances, a path encouraged by successive generations of leadership.
Jean and Harvey Picker
In 1986, Jean and Harvey Picker joined the $15 million assets of the James Picker Foundation with those of The Commonwealth Fund. James Picker, a prime contributor to the development of the American radiologic profession, had founded the Picker X-ray Corporation, an industry leader in its field. Recognizing the challenges faced by a small foundation, the Pickers chose the Fund as an institution with a common interest in improving health care and a record of effective grantmaking, management, and leadership. The Commonwealth Fund strives to do justice to the philosophy and standards of the Picker family by shaping programs that further the cause of good care and healthy lives for all Americans.