History of the Dyson Foundation
Charles H. (1909-1997) and Margaret M. Dyson (1911-1990) started the Dyson Foundation in 1957 to serve as a vehicle for family giving. Some years later, when Charles, or Charlie as he was known, was asked why he and his wife had begun the foundation, he replied that he and Margaret “were making a little more money than we expected” and that “we were not giving away as much as we felt we should.”
An unpretentious, industrious man, with a true financial genius, Charlie was the son of immigrants of modest means. He went to work after finishing high school in Englewood, New Jersey and attended night classes at what was then Pace Institute (now Pace University). After working for an accounting firm, followed by an extraordinary period of public service with the U.S. Army Air Force and the Department of the Treasury during the Second World War, he worked for several large manufacturing businesses before he started his own company in 1954. That business, now called the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation, became a large international holding company, and Charlie became known as renowned pioneer in the field of leveraged buyouts.
Known as much for his community service as his business acumen, Charlie was a well-respected philanthropist and fundraiser for the many organizations that were beneficiaries of his largesse. His wife, Margaret, was his constant partner in all of his endeavors for over 50 years, from weighing in on his business transactions to making her mark on their philanthropic activities. Together they raised four children: John (b. 1943), Rob (b. 1946), Anne (1947-2000) and Peter (1951-2016).
In its earliest years, the Foundation gave modestly to a wide variety of organizations and causes, with an emphasis on college scholarships to young people. In the late 1960s the Foundation's focus changed to more general purpose funding. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the Foundation's total grants ranged fro $50,000 to $200,000 per year. Since it's inception, the Dyson Foundation has been a family-directed foundation. Dr. Anne E. Dyson, a pediatrician, took over as President from her father in 1978 and increased levels of funding in the areas of medicine and child health. The Foundation's annual giving exceeded $1 million per year in the 1980s, increasing again to over $10 million by the late 1990s. After Anne’s death in 2000, Rob Dyson became Chairman and continues in that role to this day. Annual giving currently ranges between $14 and $16 million.
When the Foundation was started in 1957, there were only about 4,000 foundations in the United States; today there are over 86,000. Headquartered in Millbrook, New York (Dutchess County), the Dyson Foundation has awarded over $349 million in grants since its founding to organizations large and small, national and local, in the Mid-Hudson Valley and beyond. The Dyson Foundation’s current grantmaking includes a significant grants program in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State that seeks to improve the quality of life in the region, create opportunities and support for economically disadvantaged individuals and families, and strengthen the nonprofit sector. The Dyson Foundation also supports a number of organizations and causes that are tied to Dyson family interests. Its assets currently stand at approximately $204 million. In 2016, the Dyson Foundation awarded grants totaling more than $14 million.