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Scaife's bequests made him 'most-generous American' in 2015

| Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, 8:15 a.m.
Richard Scaife, circa 1992.

When the Tribune-Review's late publisher Dick Scaife left nearly $759 million to two foundations and two art museums, his gifts made him “2015's most-generous American,” a philanthropic publication announced Tuesday.

John Santikos, the late owner of a chain of Texas movie theaters, was the second-highest donor with his $605 million bequest to the San Antonio Area Community Foundation, according to an analysis of the top 50 donors published by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came in third at $510 million in donations, followed by New York couple John Paulson, a hedge fund manager, and wife Jenny, who gave $400 million to Harvard University. Behind them were Pam and Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay, from Honolulu, at $327 million.

Finishing just outside the top five were Melinda and Bill Gates, Microsoft's co-founder, who gave their eponymous foundation $272 million.

Besides Scaife, the only Pennsylvanians to make the list were Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest of Huntingdon Valley, whose $80 million in gifts put them at 30th. Gerry Lenfest founded a cable company.

Scaife, who died July 4, 2014, left a total of about $20 million to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg, and the Chadds Ford-based Brandywine Conservancy and Museum of Art.

Most of his money went to the Sarah Scaife Foundation and Allegheny Foundation, which he controlled. Each received $368.4 million last year.

The gift made the Sarah Scaife Foundation the region's fourth largest, with total assets of more than $750 million. The Allegheny Foundation's assets expanded from $75 million to more than $443 million.

“In 2014, we gave away $3 million. In 2015, we gave away over $13 million, so it was a big jump,” said Matthew Groll, executive director of the Allegheny Foundation, which gives mostly to regional charities.

The Sarah Scaife Foundation, which focuses its giving on national conservative advocacy groups, plans to increase its grant-giving by about $12 million in 2016, said Michael Gleba, the foundation's chairman.

“That will be directed to the same kinds of public policy matters that the foundation has supported in the past,” Gleba said.

Scaife's daughter, Jennie Scaife, 52, of Palm Beach, Fla., sued in Westmoreland County court to overturn her father's will, which left nothing for her or her brother, David Scaife, 50, of Shadyside.

The suit is separate from an Allegheny County lawsuit in which the pair are attempting to recover potentially hundreds of millions of dollars their father spent from a trust fund his mother, Sarah Mellon Scaife, created for him in 1935.

Mike Wereschagin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7900 or

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