In 1932, influenced by the death of his son from cancer in 1929, steelmaker William H. Donner founded the International Cancer Research Foundation. With assets of $2 million, the Foundation was dedicated to cancer and medical research. By the end of World War II, Mr. Donner recognized that government would dominate this field and pulled his foundation back from this area, changing its name to the Donner Foundation. He then looked at college education, finding substantial grant programs, but little available at the pre-college level. This began the Foundation’s long involvement in secondary education.
In 1954, Mr. Donner died at age 96. The directorate of the Foundation fell to his children and grandchildren. In 1960, there was a split, with the $44 million in assets divided equally between the newly formed Donner Foundation, which moved to New York, and the original Philadelphia-based foundation, which became the Independence Foundation.
The Independence Foundation funded secondary education through scholarships, endowments and a school loan program, as well as giving grants to local cultural and arts organizations. In 1988, the Foundation changed direction to nursing education, providing scholarships and endowments to nine Schools of Nursing across the country.
Since 1993, the Foundation’s focus has continued in health care, supporting initiatives in community-based nurse-managed health care in neighborhoods where health services are not traditionally available. In addition, the Foundation funds programs in Arts and Culture, Human Services, Legal Aid, and offers fellowships in Public Interest Legal Aid and both the Visual and Performing Arts.