Remembering David Rockefeller, IESC Founder

21-Mar-2017 Categories: Press Releases

March 21, 2017 -- IESC remembers our founder and first chairperson (1964-1968) David Rockefeller, who died yesterday, March 20, at the age of 101.  

“We are inspired by David Rockefeller’s legacy and guided by his belief that harnessing the American spirit of volunteerism and the power of business expertise could move people out of poverty and make countries stronger and more resilient,” said Tom Miller, president and CEO of IESC.

The billionaire banker and philanthropist was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the Standard Oil tycoon and head of one of the richest and most powerful in families the nation’s history.

After earning a degree from Harvard and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Rockefeller enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942 and was discharged a captain in 1945, having been awarded the U.S. Legion of Merit, the U.S. Army Commendation Ribbon and the French Legion of Honor.

David Rockefeller was a legend in so many ways, and I’m glad his magic extended to the creation of IESC. — Tom Miller, IESC President and CEO

After the war he began his career in banking. By 1961, he had moved through the ranks to become president and chairman of the board of Chase Manhattan Bank. 

A few years later, at the height of his career, Mr. Rockefeller gave a talk in Brazil at an international management conference in which he presented the idea of an American task force to strengthen global private enterprise. Modeled on President Kennedy’s vision for the Peace Corps, founded in 1961, this task force would field experienced business executives in developing countries and emerging markets to share expertise and advice.

Together with Sol Linowitz, head of Xerox, William Paley, head of CBS, and about a half dozen other giants of American business, Rockefeller founded the International Executive Service Corps, which was formally launched by President Johnson in the White House Rose Garden in June 1964.

David Rockefeller and his co-founders committed to focus on small and medium enterprises, which they believed were the hard-working engines of innovation, growth, and job creation. But, Mr. Rockefeller said, IESC would consider “any project likely to strengthen the local business community or improve the environment” for business.

This holds true 52 years later. Since 1964, IESC has catalyzed the growth of small and medium businesses worldwide and strengthened public and private institutions that support business. We have completed 25,000 technical assistance assignments, created or preserved more than 1.5 million jobs, and worked in more than 135 countries.

In 1998, David Rockefeller and Sol Linowitz were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in part for their service in founding IESC, according to remarks by President Bill Clinton.

Rockefeller’s legacy lives on at IESC in a number of tangible ways. His nephew, Richard Aldrich, Jr., serves on the board of directors. The central conference room at the IESC home office is named after him, and in 1992 IESC established an award in his honor, the aptly named “Spirit of Service” award, given for outstanding and continuing contributions to IESC.

“Every time Mr. Rockefeller visited IESC, he always amazed me with his knowledge of current IESC programs and staff achievements. He could talk at length and in detail about specific volunteer projects,” said Jude Halleran, former IESC senior vice president of operations. “His pride in IESC’s mission was genuine.”

Everyone at IESC is saddened by his passing and we offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

“David Rockefeller was a legend in so many ways, and I’m glad his magic extended to the creation of IESC,” President Miller said. “He will be missed for the many things he did to make this a better world and by the many people whose lives he touched.”

Watch David Rockefeller's video address on the occasion of IESC's 50th anniversary