Irene Diamond Fund to Close With Final Grants Totaling $40 Million

The Irene Diamond Fund is closing its doors at the end of 2012, ending nearly two decades of support for the arts, education, AIDS research, and public health in New York City, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The fund will disburse a final round of grants totaling $40 million to Weill Cornell Medical College's Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology (34 percent) in support of a citywide initiative to prevent the physical and financial abuse of elders; the American Federation for Aging Research (34 percent) for a postdoctoral fellowship in aging research; Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health (12.5 percent) for a new professorship in productive aging; Brown University (12.5 percent) for an initiative linking public health strategies and care to the elderly; the New York Academy of Medicine (5 percent) for projects designed to make cities more age-friendly; and the Medicare Rights Center (2 percent) in support of the organization's efforts to help individuals navigate the Medicare system.

Established in 1994, the fund's grantmaking totaled nearly $286 million over the years — including $117 million for the performing arts and culture, $75 million for AIDS research, $44 million for public health, $33 million for human rights and civil society, and $17 million for education. Diamond, who died in 2003, intended for the fund to "spend down" within ten years of her death. Her husband, Aaron Diamond, who died in 1984, had a similar philosophy; the couple's original fund, the Aaron Diamond Foundation, closed in 1996. In total, the Diamonds gave nearly half a billion dollars to charity and philanthropic causes, including funds to establish the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, which developed the life-saving antiretroviral therapy that suppresses the HIV virus and halts progression of the disease.

"She wanted to have an impact now," Irene Diamond Fund president Jane Silver told the Journal. "If she had been able to spend all her money while she was alive, she probably would have."

"Irene was always in hurry," said David Ho, director and CEO of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. "She said, 'Let's just do it.' She certainly gave me a tremendous opportunity in addressing this epidemic."

Pia Catton. "Charitable Fund Ends a Good Run." Wall Street Journal 12/27/2012.