Media Coverage

Celebrating the Life of Elizabeth J. McCormack

Photo credit: Eddie Hausner/The New York Times

The Population Council celebrates the life of Elizabeth J. McCormack, one of the nation’s most influential philanthropic counselors, and long-term Trustee of the Population Council Board, who died December 4, 2020 at the age of 98.

Ms. McCormack, a former Roman Catholic nun and transformational figure for Manhattanville College, became a philanthropic adviser to the Rockefeller family in 1974. She began advising 22 cousins in the Rockefeller family – the great-grandchildren of the patriarch, John D. Rockefeller. While their interests were scattered, her personalized guidance focused on conservation, health, education, the arts and other beneficiaries.

“To use your money to make a difference is something one has to learn,” Ms. McCormack wrote in a 2004 article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. “You have to think broadly, and in my opinion, give narrowly.”

Ms. McCormack served as Vice-Chair of the Population Council’s Board of Trustees and was Acting Chair for a period of time.  She also served as Chairwoman of the MacArthur Foundation and a director of the Atlantic Philanthropies, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and dozens of other foundations, corporations and colleges.

At Manhattanville College, Ms. McCormack transformed an elite, traditionally Catholic women’s school into a nonsectarian coeducational college with a new name, progressive curriculums and a more racially, ethnically and religiously diverse student body and faculty. In her eight years as the college’s president, Ms. McCormack never cashed any of her paychecks, choosing to sign them over to her order, the Society of the Sacred Heart.

The Population Council will remember and celebrate the life and generosity of Ms. McCormack and thanks her for all that she’s done to improve health and development.

Read the full tribute to Ms. McCormack in The New York Times.