News and analysis
February 06, 2011

No. 41 (tied): Paul and Daisy M. Soros

Paul and Daisy M. Soros

Amount donated in 2010: $25-million

Beneficiary: Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans

Donors’ background: Mr. Soros founded Soros Associates, a port construction company, in Chicago, and Paul Soros Investments, in New York. Mrs. Soros is a retired social worker.

Mr. Soros, 84, and his wife, Daisy, 81, gave $25-million to the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, in New York, to support higher education for immigrants and their children. The nonprofit, which Mr. and Mrs. Soros created in 1998, awards immigrants to the United States and their children two years of full tuition and help with expenses so they can pursue graduate study in any subject at any U.S. university. To date the organization has supported more than 380 students.

The couple came to the United States from Hungary in 1948 with only about $1,500, and while Mr. Soros had been accepted to both Columbia University, in New York, and Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass., he couldn’t afford the tuition at either institution. So he chose to enroll at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

As his wealth grew (in part from investments he made with his younger brother, the philanthropist and financier George Soros, who ranks No. 1 on the 2010 Philanthropy 50 list), he and Mrs. Soros decided they would prefer to set up an organization that would help immigrants struggling with the cost of education, rather than finance any one university or graduate program.

“I have always preferred investing directly in individuals and not putting my name on buildings,” said Mr. Soros.

Steep increases in university tuition prompted the couple to donate to the organization last year, said Mr. Soros, who added that he and his wife have been monitoring the cost of tuition at many graduate schools over the past several years and felt now was the right time to raise the amount available to those they assist.

“Student indebtedness is a plague of our times,” said Mr. Soros. “We want Soros Fellows to have as little debt as possible and hence more options for their futures.”

Mrs. Soros serves on the boards of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the New York Philharmonic, and Weill Cornell Medical College, all of which are in New York.

—Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2010.