News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 8: Robert E. and Dorothy J. King

Photo by Saul Bromberger and Sandra Hoover

Robert E. and Dorothy J. King

Amount donated in 2011: $166.5-million

Biggest beneficiary: Stanford University

Donors’ background: Mr. King founded the investment firm Peninsula Capital, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Mr. King, 76, and his wife, Dorothy, 75, gave $154.5-million to Stanford University to establish the Stanford Institute for Innovation in Developing Economies, a center at the Graduate School of Business, where scholars and others will research entrepreneurship practices and go on to teach people how to apply the findings to help alleviate poverty in developing countries. Mr. King earned a master’s degree from the business school in 1960.

Of the total, the Kings stipulated that $102.5-million be used to start the institute and $50-million will should go toward attracting and matching donations for the institute and other university programs. The remaining $2-million will go toward scholarships, with priority given to low-income students from developing countries.

The couple said the idea for the gift came about after more than 40 years of housing in their home international students who had come to the United States to attend Stanford. One such student, Andreata Muforo, who came to Stanford from Zimbabwe, invited peers from a study trip she took to Africa to dine at the Kings’ home.

“We heard how those first-hand experiences compelled some of the MBA’s to return for internships in Africa,” said Mrs. King in a written statement announcing the gift. “We saw the direct connection between the learning experience and the motivation to make change.”

The Kings also gave a total of $12-million to other nonprofits, including Dartmouth College; Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, Calif.; the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, in Cape Porpoise, Me.; and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Mrs. King’s alma mater. Some of that money was also directed toward the Thrive Foundation for Youth, a Menlo Park, Calif., charity the couple started in 1995. The foundation supports and works with nonprofits and social scientists to promote research and programs that help parents, teachers, and mentors improve their skills in working with needy youths.

—Maria Di Mento

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011