Profiles in Philanthropy Conrad N. Hilton and His Foundation
by Matthew D. Dacy
"Your appointment is at 10 a.m. in the Hilton. You can take the subway to get there."
In most cities around the world, the directions and destination would be familiar-a journey on mass transit to a spacious, inviting hotel. But if you're at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., those words have quite a different meaning.
Taking the subway means a walk through underground hallways. And while the Hilton Building at the end of your trek is well-appointed and professionally run, the smiling person at the desk won't check your reservation. She's likely to check your pulse and ask for a blood sample.
At first glance, there's little in common between the diagnostic and research building in Rochester and the hotels that fly the Hilton banner. But look again. The Hilton Building at Mayo represents a dynamic partnership. It links two "household names," which share a commitment to service and international goodwill in their respective fields.
Hard work, faith in God, confidence in the United States and a capacity to achieve as much as he could dream - these were the hallmarks of Conrad Hilton's life.
Born in a primitive adobe dwelling in San Antonio, Conrad Hilton was one of seven children. Working in the family's general store, he honed entrepreneurial skills that made him an international business leader and statesman. The Hilton Building at Mayo Rochester is a prime example of his generous philanthropy
There is a natural law, a Divine law, that obliges you and me to relieve the suffering, the distressed and the destitute. Charity is a supreme virtue, and the great channel through which the mercy of God is passed on to mankind.
"Love one another, for that is the whole law"; so our fellow men deserve to be loved and encouraged-never to be abandoned to wander alone in poverty and darkness. The practice of charity will bind us-will bind all men in one great brotherhood.
As the funds you will expend have come from many places in the world, so let there be no territorial, religious or color restrictions on your benefactions, but beware of organized, professional charities with high-salaried executives and a heavy ratio of expense.
Be ever watchful for the opportunity to shelter little children with the umbrella of your charity; be generous to their schools, their hospitals and their places of worship. For, as they must bear the burden of our mistakes, so are they in their innocence the repositories of our hopes for the upward progress of humanity. Give aid to their protectors and defenders, the Sisters, who devote their love and life's work for the good of mankind, for they appeal to me especially as being deserving of help from the Foundation.
Across the United States and around the world, "Hilton" is synonymous with "hotel." But the career-and impact of Conrad Hilton extends far beyond the accommodations that bear his name.
In his books and speeches, Mr. Hilton called himself an innkeeper. Yet those who knew him best often spoke of him as a Good Samaritan, who reached out to people in all walks of life.
Like the Mayo brothers, Mr. Hilton was committed to educating future leaders in his chosen profession. He established the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management in 1969 at the University of Houston. More than 2,000 alumni now carry forward Mr. Hilton's high standards and commitment to service.
In 1972, Mr. Hilton made a personal, 10-year pledge to construct a building that focused on laboratory medicine and research in human behavior at Mayo. The Hilton Foundation made a leadership gift at the founding of Mayo Medical School, and completed Mr. Hilton's building pledge to Mayo after his death in 1979. In 1992, the Hilton Foundation approved a four-year grant to develop core chemistry laboratories at Mayo's Clinical Research Unit (CRU). Hilton Hotels have provided funding for Mayo's Lung Project as well as studies in gastroenterology.
When forming his estate plan, Mr. Hilton showed the same personal concern and business savvy that made his hotels successful. After providing for loved ones, he passed his fortune-and the authority to use it- to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
"The foundation has a particular duty to respect Mr. Hilton's intentions," explains Donald H. Hubbs, President and Director of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. "We are stewards of his resources. When awarding support, we apply Mr. Hilton's principles to the needs of a changing world."
Today, the foundation initiates and develops major long-term projects, and then seeks appropriate organizations to implement them. "This approach helps us gain the greatest possible value from every dollar spent while having the greatest possible impact on society," says Mr. Hubbs. The foundation often works with other funding sources to ensure the stability of projects beyond the term of Hilton Foundation grants.
During more than 50 years of service, the foundation has awarded more than $155 million in grants. The addition to generous support of Mayo, examples of the foundation's philanthropy include strengthening the outreach of Catholic Sisters, preventing substance abuse, reducing family violence, improving prenatal care, supporting blind and multi-handicapped children, and establishing water-development programs in Africa.
Members of Conrad Hilton's family serve with the foundation. Their energy and personal commitment extend the family heritage. Writing in the foundation's most recent annual report, Barron Hilton said, "I am extremely proud to be involved in this philanthropic tradition." Affirmed his brother; Eric: "My father's philanthropic vision is as timely now as it was years ago. "We are stewards of his resources," says Donald Hubbs, President of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. The foundation supports appropriate organizations for major, long-term projects.
Inside the Hilton Building
"Mr. Hilton was one of the kindest men I ever met. He was sincerely concerned with helping the disadvantaged. In that sense, he was very much like Dr. Will Mayo. He was well ahead of his time in perceiving how chemicals in the brain influence human behavior he often asked me, 'What makes man tick?' He was interested in the mysteries of human behavior-anger, fear, kindness and addictions, as well as motivation, learning and memory. Mr. Hilton pointed out that he looked forward to having his name associated with Mayo."
As you walk through the underground subway to the Conrad N. Hilton Building, the first place you'll encounter is Desk C, the area where many patients wait to be called for blood work and other assessments. But another world of activity takes place within the Hilton Building, with diagnostic and laboratory work that affects patients from throughout the world. Some selected highlights:
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After a tour of the building that bears his name, Conrad Hilton expressed his satisfaction in a letter to Mayo officials.
June 5, 1975
Theron Clagett, M. D., chairman
Dear Dr. Clagett:
Thank you very much for your nice letter of June 2.
I certainly enjoyed my visit to Rochester at which time I had the opportunity of visiting the Conrad N. Hilton Building and I was, indeed, most impressed.
Thank you for giving me the figures which you did. They are certainly interesting. I am glad to know that you feel plans hold even greater promise for the research in the Behavioral Sciences.
With kind regards.
CONRAD N. HILTON CNH:ws
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