October 23, 2017
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David Rockefeller Sr., billionaire whose family helped create Acadia, dies at 101

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Updated:

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine — David Rockefeller Sr., whose family has extensive ties to Mount Desert Island and who personally has supported many of the island’s institutions, has died at the age of 101, according to media reports.

Rockefeller, who served as chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan bank for more than a decade, died on Monday morning at his home in Pocantico Hills, New York, the New York Times reported.

Rockefeller’s grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Sr., made a fortune in the oil business. His son John D. Rockefeller Jr. is one of the founders of Acadia National Park, having donated thousands of acres to the park in the early 20th century. John D. Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller — David Sr.’s parents — first bought a seasonal home in Seal Harbor on MDI in 1910.

In 2015, just before his 100th birthday, the international banker and philanthropist donated approximately 1,000 acres of woods on MDI to the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve.

“Seal Harbor, maybe more than any other location that I can think of in the world, has been important to me since I first came here when I was 3 months old in my parents’ hands,” Rockefeller said in 2015, at a gathering by the shore of Little Long Pond to celebrate the donation.

Rockefeller, who would have turned 102 on June 12, was one of a handful of billionaires who summer on MDI, but the only one whose family has been among the island’s wealthy rusticators for generations.

David MacDonald, president of the group Friends of Acadia, said Monday that David Rockefeller Sr.’s affection for Acadia and the communities that surround it was readily apparent.

“It was obvious how much he cared about this place, both the park and the community,” MacDonald said. “It really seemed like home to him.”

MacDonald said Rockefeller has been instrumental in helping to preserve the park’s resources, both by donating his own money and by encouraging others to provide financial support. The restoration in the 1980s of the park’s carriage roads, the original construction of which was planned and financed by Rockefeller’s father, is one such example, he said.

Rockefeller also supported conservation efforts by groups such as Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve, as well as the missions of other area nonprofit institutions.

“He’s been influential with his peers, and he’s advocated [on behalf of park projects] to elected officials,” MacDonald said. “He loved this place. He had family connections here and shared that with his children. At so many levels, he will be greatly missed.”

Darron Collins, president of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, said Monday in a prepared statement that Rockefeller was “a brilliant, kind man and a remarkable human being.” He said the billionaire has been a supporter of COA and its mission throughout its history, from its founding in 1969 onward.

“Mr. Rockefeller was ​a friend to COA from the very beginning,” Collins said. “H​is ​​support of the college in its earliest days was extremely valuable, giving us some sense of financial stability and an immediate boost of credibility​ with others.”

More recently, Rockefeller endowed COA’s David Rockefeller Family Chair in Ecosystem Management and Protection faculty position and, in 2010​, ​he donated the Carmen and DeLaittre farms​ in Bar Harbor to COA, Collins added. The college renamed the adjacent farms Peggy Rockefeller Farms, and now uses the 100 acres to raise sheep, cows, chickens and vegetable crops, ​and to incorporate sustainable food systems ​into COA’s​ curriculum, he said.

“He will be sorely missed by many people, and his impact on this world will be felt​ for generations,” Collins said.

According to Forbes, which each year compiles lists of the wealthiest people in the world, David Rockefeller Sr. had an estimated net worth of $3.2 billion in 2014, ranking him as the 207th-richest American citizen. By Forbes’ estimates, Rockefeller was the oldest living billionaire in the world.

 


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