About Robert Donner

DONNER, Robert , business executive, was born in Columbus, Ind., Dec. 17, 1891, son of William Henry and Adelia May (Newsom) Donner and grandson of Frederick and Mary Jane (Johnson) Donner.  His grandfather came to this country from Germany in 1847 and settled in Columbus.  After receiving his preliminary education at Shady Side Academy, Pittsburgh, Pa., and Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., Robert Donner attended Yale University in 1912-1913.  He began his career in the steel industry in 1915, when he joined the New York Steel Co., Buffalo, an enterprise that was purchased by his father (q.v.) in that year.  The business was incorporated as the Donner Steel Co., Inc., in 1918, and the son served it as vice-president and a director until 1930, when it was sold to the Republic Steel Corp.  During the next decade Donner was in business for his own account, and in 1940 he founded Donner Estates, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa., an investment firm that became known as the Donner Corp. in 1947.  He remained a director of that enterprise from the time of its inception until 1957, when he retired from all business activity.  At other times he was the vice-president of the Pennsylvania East Side Land Co. and a director of Rittenhouse Plaza Apartments, Inc., Penn-Pitt Supply Co., and Penn-Pitt Coal & Coke Co., all in Philadelphia.  From 1946 to 1949 Donner served as president and a director of the Donner Foundation, Inc., Philadelphia, an endowment fund, and from the latter year until the close of his life he was chairman of the board.  The fund was established in memory of his brother, Joseph W. Donner, by their father in 1932 and began operations with $2 million to provide funds for cancer research.  Later its scope was extended to include donations for educational purposes.  From the year of its inception until 1964 the foundation distributed more than $25 million for cancer research.  This included the construction of science centers, among them the William H. Donner Center of Radiology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1958, and the creation of Donner chairs of science at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Yale, and Princeton universities, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Funds were also allocated for scholarship purposes, and in 1955 grants were given to Phillips Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy, N.H., St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H., and The Hill School, Pottstown, Pa., to increase the salaries of faculty members.  At one time Donner served as a director of the International Cancer Research Foundation, Philadelphia.  He became an airplane pilot in 1934 and during the Second World War was active in the work of the Civil Air Patrol.  He was a member of the Mid-Day Club of Philadelphia, the Denver (Colo.) Club, the Broadmoor Golf, the Cheyenne Mountain Country, Cooking, El Paso, and Exchange clubs of Colorado Springs, Colo., and the Commonwealth Club of California, San Francisco.  His religious affiliation was with the Episcopal church.  Politically he was a republican.  Playing golf and shooting were among his recreations.  He was married Sept. 7, 1928, to Margaret, daughter of John Croil Hunter of Fargo, N.Dak., a merchant, and had two children: Robert and Margaret Hunter, who married William M. Spencer, Jr.  Robert Donner dies in Colorado Springs, Colo., Aug. 8, 1964.

(1969) Donner, Robert.  In National Cyclopaedia of American Biography.  (vol. 51, p. 115)
     New York: James T. White & Company.

Thanks to a donation from an alumnus, the Special Collections at ACU's Center for Restoration Studies now houses two Ethiopian religious texts dating back to the turn of the 19th century.

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