J. Richardson Dilworth, who served
on the Yale Corporation for 27 years and was its senior fellow from 1973 through 1986, died on Dec. 29 in Princeton, New Jersey, which had been his home.
A graduate of Yale College in 1938 and the Yale Law School in 1942, Mr. Dilworth was first elected to the Corporation as an alumni fellow in 1959. He was appointed
a successor trustee by other Corporation members in 1962. During his tenure,
he served on every committee of the Corporation.
Mr. Dilworth was senior financial adviser to the Rockefeller family for 23 years until retiring in 1981. During those years he served as chair of Rockefeller Center and concurrently served on an unusually wide variety of corporate boards. At the time of his death, he was on the board of directors of AEA Incorporated, a private investment company which he had helped to found.
Born in Hewlett, on Long Island, New York, Mr. Dilworth was the son of Dewees Wood Dilworth and Edith Logan Dilworth. He attended the Buckley School in Manhattan and St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, before coming to Yale. He began his business career with the banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Company after serving during World War II in the U.S. Naval Reserves. He became managing partner of that firm in 1955.
Mr. Dilworth distinguished himself not only in the business world but also in philanthropy, the arts and education. He served as chair of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and also the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was also a trustee of Colonial Williamsburg and of Rockefeller University, where he was treasurer and chair of the Finance and Investment Committee. In 1993, he became the first non-scientist to receive an honorary degree from Rockefeller University.
A collector of 18th-century English art, Mr. Dilworth and his wife, Elizabeth, gave 577 drawings and three sketch books by the 18th-century English painter George Romney to the Yale University Art Gallery in 1964. That gift made Yale the owner of the largest collection of Romney drawings in the nation.
President Richard C. Levin noted, "No trustee of the past century has had a deeper respect for Yale's past, and none had a clearer vision of Yale's future. Dick Dilworth was an extraordinarily wise counselor to four Yale presidents and an example for us all of devoted service to Yale."
When stepping down from the Yale Corporation in 1986 as he reached the mandatory retirement age for Corporation members, Mr. Dilworth said, "I'm just an alumnus who has worked hard -- it was a privilege." He stated that his "major focus has been to try to be supportive of the administration and the University as a whole." He cited the decision to admit women to Yale College as the most important issue of his tenure as trustee.
Yale Corporation member José A. Cabranes, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals who was the University's first general counsel during Mr. Dilworth's service as senior fellow, comments: "During my 23 years of close association with Yale's governing board, my admiration and respect for Dick Dilworth as a trustee and as a person has known no equal. He was a perfect gentleman and he was wise -- indeed, no single word better describes him -- and he had a deep understanding of the University. As a trustee, he was a 'natural': He was respectful of faculty, students and administrators, and he was never unduly intrusive in academic matters, but he was properly inquisitive and he expected answers to trustees' probing questions on all aspects of University life."
A group of Mr. Dilworth's friends and associates established a professorship in his honor in 1982, called the J. Richardson Dilworth Professorship of British History. The post is now held by Paul M. Kennedy, who commented, "Dick Dilworth was one of the most humane, gentle and perceptive leaders of his generation. His gentle manner disguised a truly intelligent spirit. The range of his interests, all genuinely held, was extraordinary. He was a natural 'trustee,' believing that it was the responsibility of one generation to nurture and protect the culture, the ideas, the arts and the sciences for the generations yet to come."
He expressed his deep commitment to the University and the generations of students to follow him at Yale when, upon his retirement from the Corporation, a New Haven Register reporter asked Mr. Dilworth to look to the future. "My great desire is that Yale continue as one of the great centers of learning in the world," he responded. "That is perfectly clear to me."
For his many years of service to Yale and for his wide range of contributions as a civic leader, philanthropist and businessman, the University awarded Mr. Dilworth a Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1995. His citation read, in part, "[Y]our life has been a selfless journey of service to people and institutions, marked by diplomacy, generosity of spirit, and a keen sense of the possible. As an exemplary trustee, you have guided institutions devoted to education, art, and science to be their best in making this a more civilized and tolerant world. For 27 years a fellow of the Corporation and for 13 years its senior fellow, you have had a quiet, but unequaled, impact on this University."
In addition to his wife, the former Elizabeth McKay Cushing, Mr. Dilworth is survived by two sons, Joseph R. Dilworth of Sagaponack, New York, and Charles Dewees Dilworth of San Francisco, California; a daughter, Alexandra Cushing Dilworth of Montalcino, Italy; seven grandchildren; and a sister, Diana D. Wantz of Manhattan.