David Rockefeller: An American Patrician


He was the youngest of John D. Rockefeller’s fabled grandchildren—always the baby of their brood—yet he was probably the smartest, most commercially adept, and philanthropically influential of his five siblings. In early adulthood, he studiously observed the cultural and charitable paths of his talented older brothers and sister. And what a gifted bunch they were in so many spheres: practical politics, the emergence of art’s modern movement, and the rebirth of conservation awareness. This third-generation progeny of a petroleum monopolist made massive and lasting contributions to the 20th-century aesthetic of our beloved city and country. But it was David Rockefeller who quietly watched, listened, and ultimately forged his own path of philanthropic genius that we may not see again for another 101 years.

Most fittingly, he was a born-and-bred New Yorker who had the vision, resources, and Rolodex to make civic contributions that are unequaled in their scale and impact by other so-called scions of Manhattan. As former mayor Mike Bloomberg said of David Rockefeller: “No individual has contributed more to New York City over a longer period of time.”

He was the last patrician of a bygone era whose modest demeanor and enlightened perspective made a difference that never required his name being etched in gold leaf or carved into a portico. He was comfortable knowing what he’d accomplished, and always knowing just who he was. And Quest, knowing who he was, continues to salute David Rockefeller, and remember him fondly. —scmiii