History of the Dyson Foundation
In 1957 Charles H. and Margaret M. Dyson established the Dyson Foundation, which took in the assets of an earlier trust (dating to 1949). Charles (1909-1997), or Charlie as he was known, became a renowned pioneer in the field of leveraged buyouts. 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. 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 (1911-1990), 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 (b. 1951).
The Dyson Foundation was established to facilitate and formalize the family’s charitable giving and was intended to be a permanent vehicle for family philanthropy. Some years later when Charlie Dyson 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.”
Since its inception, the Dyson Foundation has been a family-directed foundation. Anne Dyson took over as President from her father in 1978. After Anne’s death in 2000, Rob Dyson assumed the Presidency, and continues in that role. When it started in 1957, there were only about 4,000 foundations in the United States; today there are over 64,000. Headquartered in Millbrook, New York (Dutchess County), the Dyson Foundation has awarded over $278 million in grants since its founding to organizations large and small, national and local, in both New York City and the Mid-Hudson Valley. 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 $241 million. In 2012, The Dyson Foundation awarded grants totaling more than $18.6 million.