Rice University

05/29/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/29/2020 20:02

Rice friend and benefactor Richard Gilder dies at 87

Richard Gilder, an investor, philanthropist and passionate advocate of history and education, died May 12 at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 87.

Richard Gilder

Gilder, who founded the New York brokerage firm Gilder, Gagnon, Howe & Co., parlayed his remarkable business success into a broad philanthropic legacy benefiting numerous institutions, including Rice University, where his generosity spanned the School of Humanities, Baker Institute for Public Policy and Moody Center for the Arts.

'Individuals like Dick who bring a depth of real-world experience and a personal dedication to advancing knowledge are rare,' said Rice President David Leebron, whose longtime friendship with Gilder dated to when Leebron was dean of Columbia Law School in New York. They stayed in touch after Leebron moved to Houston, sharing an enthusiasm for education, history, policy and the arts.

'He was a joy to be around, as generous with his wisdom and friendship as he was with his resources,' Leebron said. 'He was the epitome of visionary and generous philanthropy. I will miss him greatly.'

Gilder had an important connection to Rice in addition to his friendship with Leebron. His marriage to Lois Cleveland Chiles, the granddaughter of late Rice Trustee William A. Kirkland, made the university a family matter. Lois' mother, Barbara Kirkland Chiles '43, was a member of Will Rice College, and Barbara's father was a descendant of B.A. Shepherd, the namesake of Rice's Shepherd School of Music.

Gilder's interest in education and history was well matched at Rice, where he and Lois gave generously to the Americas Archive and to establish the Richard Gilder Americas Fellowship within the School of Humanities. The couple were also crucial seed funders of the Baker Institute U.S.-Mexico Border Program's Border Economics Series and early sponsors of the Moody Center for the Arts, naming the Lois Chiles Studio Theater. Most recently, the couple established the Barbara Kirkland Chiles Chair in American History in honor of Lois' mother.

'Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles' gift of the Barbara Kirkland Chiles Chair in American History has had a transformative effect on the study of U.S. history at Rice,' Dean of Humanities Kathleen Canning said. 'We were pleased to appoint Professor Nathan Citino to the chair, whose work will continue to honor the Gilders' generosity and vision of an expansive U.S. history (program) that reaches well beyond the academy.'

Beyond Rice, Gilder gave generously to the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History; the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale University, his alma mater; and to the New-York Historical Society.

Leebron noted that in his last meeting with Gilder they discussed Rice's new Center for African and African American Studies. 'He of course played a critical role in the establishment of the Gilder Lehrman Center at Yale, and he took a keen interest in what we were planning at Rice,' Leebron said. 'He was a man of remarkable intellectual breadth, depth and curiosity.'

A native New Yorker, he was well-known for his pivotal role in restoring Central Park by spearheading the Central Park Conservancy in the early 1980s and donating $17 million to the park in 1993.

'Dick Gilder's investments in institutions and intellectual inquiry were as thoughtful as his investments in people - his friends, his family, students, scholars and so many more,' Leebron said. 'His generosity, expertise and joy for learning will continue to have a profound impact for years to come.'