A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Publication looks at biggest donors in each state: In KY, it’s the recently deceased Jerry Baker

The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Maria Di Mento reports on each state’s biggest living donors through June 2017, based on information made public going back to 2000:

Everyone knows states like New York and California have more than their share of wealthy philanthropists; it just makes sense, with Silicon Valley and Wall Street spewing geysers of cash to well-placed individuals.

But big donors can be found in all 50 states — and don’t forget the District of Columbia.

To compile this list, The Chronicle took a deep dive into its Philanthropy 50 data going back to 2000. It also used information about donations made public over the past decade that appear in our online gifts database, and other Chronicle coverage of wealthy donors.

All told, the donors on our list have given more than $84.7 billion to charity since the early 2000s. The Nebraska-based investment guru Warren Buffett is responsible for more than half of the total, pledging more than $46 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and to other nonprofits in 2006.

Ten states are home to a donor who has given away at least $1 billion to charity, and Nebraska, Washington, California, and New York are home to the biggest multibillion-dollar donors.

Charitable donors are not required by law to disclose their gifts, and many prefer to give quietly or anonymously, so this list may not include every major gift. Please contact The Chronicle if you know of a donor we’re missing in your neck of the woods.

The biggest living donors by state since 2000:


Jerry Baker
$15 million
Baker was identified on the list published June 20 but, passed away just two days later. He was a retired president of Airgas Mid America, a welding gas and supplies distributor. His donation to Western Kentucky University included cash and property. It supported financial aid and will help pay the maintenance costs of a home and gardens the university will now receive.


Norma Lerner
$100 million

She is the widow of Alfred Lerner, who led the MBNA Corporation, a financial-services company, and owned the Cleveland Browns football team. A gift to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in 2002 backed patient care, research, and education at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University. He died several months after announcing the gift.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi
$57 million

He founded Sandor Development Company, a real-estate developer.The couple have given primarily to medical causes and to Indiana University.

Chronicle of Philanthropy

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