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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Last Updated: 2017-01-11

At A Glance

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

140 E. 62nd St.

New York City, NY United States 10065-8124

Telephone: (212) 838-8400


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Additional Descriptor

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $6,427,525,490

Total giving: $231,841,178






Trust established in 1940 in DE as Avalon Foundation; incorporated in 1954 in NY; merged with Old Dominion Foundation and renamed The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 1969 - Founded in the name of the late Andrew W. Mellon (1855-1937) by his children. His daughter Ailsa Mellon Bruce established the Avalon Foundation in 1940 and his son Paul Mellon established The Old Dominion Foundation in 1941. The two foundations consolidated, resulting in The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Mellon was a banking magnate who financed several industrial companies including Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) and Carborundum Company. He served as Secretary of the United States Treasury from 1921 through 1932. During his life, Mellon gave away nearly $10 million. Much of it went to educational and charitable institutions in his native Pittsburgh, but his most famous gift was the money and the pictures that were used to establish the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

Purpose and Activities

The foundation's grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities, rather than be a source for narrowly defined projects. As such, it develops thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invests sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results. Institutions and programs receiving support are often leaders in fields of foundation activity, but they may also be promising newcomers, or in a position to demonstrate new ways of overcoming obstacles to achieve program goals. The foundation concentrates most of its grantmaking in a few areas: higher education, art history, conservation, museums, performing arts, scholarly communications and information technology. .

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

Art History, Conservation, and Museums

The program seeks to advance innovative work in the study, preservation, and display of humanity's artefactual and visual heritage by supporting institutions dedicated to that mission. The program makes grants, by invitation, in four primary areas: curatorial initiatives; art conservation; art museums and higher education; and art history research. Grants frequently entail collaborations between institutions that build scholarly and conservation community. Support for museums is concentrated on the curatorial and conservation programs that constitute the museum's intellectual capital, with a focus on positions, training, and research. Most museums that receive support have wide-ranging collections of international caliber. The foundation also supports select conservation graduate programs, and initiatives that bolster the role of science in conservation. Grants in the art museums and higher education category support the integration of campus museums in the academic life of their host institutions, foster collaborations between universities and major museums, and seek to increase diversity in the pipeline of curatorial and conservation professionals. To support networks of scholars and practitioners of art history and conservation, the program makes grants to research institutes that have broad mandates to advance art history and visual studies. These centers receive support for research, publication, and exchanges of international groups of scholars and museum professionals. Select grants support the development of the research base for the study and conservation of contemporary art. The program does not support individuals, capital and building campaigns, K-12 education, loan exhibitions, conservation treatments, or basic digitization.

Diversity Initiatives

Grantmaking activities are focused on pipeline programs of various kinds: dissertation writing and completion grants, support for early career faculty, and other efforts to promote graduate student success. These programs are seen in the light of efforts to complement and extend the work of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. Grantees in this area include many individual research universities as well as organizations interested in this work, such as the American Indian College Fund, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), the Organization for Tropical Studies, and The Salzburg Seminar. Direct initial inquiries by email to: Livia Calvet, .

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)

The program provides multi-year grants to a small group of private, four-year HBCUs whose mission is to provide an undergraduate liberal arts education. Currently, the foundation works with between 12-15 HBCUs. Related organizations include The Robert W. Woodruff Library, UNCF, and the Southern Education Foundation, Inc. In general, grants awarded in this program are aimed at: 1) institution building--supporting HBCU presidents as they advance specific areas of their strategic plans; 2) faculty development--supporting faculty research and library support and 3) curricular development--assisting institutions as they seek to refresh curricular offerings. Direct initial inquiries by email to: Amy Erwin, .

Liberal Arts Colleges

The program regards the arts, humanities and human sciences as its primary domain of interest. In general, the program's grants focus on faculty development across the professorial life cycle, curricular and pedagogical innovation, undergraduate research, interdisciplinary study, information technology, especially in the digital humanities and blended learning, and institutional renewal. In addition, foundation staff work closely with college presidents and the leaders of national and regional consortia to promote administrative and academic collaboration across the liberal arts college sector and between liberal arts colleges and research universities.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program (MMUF)

The program is part of the foundation's long-term effort to help remedy the continuing problem of racial and ethnic underrepresentation in the American professoriate. MMUF aims to create a legacy of highly qualified underrepresented faculty and others committed to eradicating racial disparities in the academy. Established in 1988, MMUF works to achieve its mission by identifying and supporting students of great promise and helping them to become scholars of the highest distinction. The name of the program honors Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, the noted African-American educator, statesman, minister, longtime president of Morehouse College, and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Mays' character, scholarship and commitment to social justice exemplify the aims of the MMUF program. The fundamental objective of MMUF is to encourage undergraduate students to consider pursuing the PhD in a number of core fields in the humanities, humanistic social sciences and sciences. By seeking to reduce over time the serious problem of minority underrepresentation on college and university faculties, the program likewise hopes to address the attendant educational consequences of existing disparities. MMUF also serves the related goals of structuring campus environments so that they will be more conducive to improved racial and ethnic relations, and of providing role models for all students. The program is administered by approximately 100 campus coordinators at 38 American colleges and universities and a consortium of 39 historically black colleges and universities within the membership of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The program also includes three universities in South Africa. Selection of fellows is based on individualized assessments of each candidate's academic achievement and promise, aspiration to pursue an academic career in Mellon-designated fields of study, and commitment to the broader goals of MMUF. Five rising juniors are chosen on each member campus every year, along with 25 students from across the UNCF consortium, for a total of 230 fellows. The foundation is not currently accepting new institutions into the MMUF program. For more information, please visit

Performing Arts

The program provides multi-year grants to a small number of leading orchestras, theater companies, opera companies, single choreographer dance companies, and presenters based in the United States. It seeks to support institutions that contribute to the development and preservation of their art form, provide creative leadership in solving problems or addressing issues unique to the field, and which present the highest level of institutional performance. Grants are awarded on the basis of artistic merit and leadership in the field, and concentrate on achieving long-term results. Applications are by invitation only.

Program-Related Investment

The foundation has mada a program-related investment in the form of a loan to support an increase in a program-related investment funding a zero-interest loan pool for a non-profit's performing arts grantees.

Public Affairs

The foundation makes a limited number of grants reflecting the interests and expertise of foundation staff.

Research Universities and Scholarship in the Humanities

The foundation supports a wide range of initiatives to strengthen the institutions that sustain scholarship in the humanities and closely related social sciences, primarily research universities but also a small number of centers for advanced study and independent research libraries. Particular emphases in this area include (but are not limited to) doctoral education, postdoctoral fellowships, faculty research, humanities centers, and discipline-related projects. The foundation encourages collaborations among institutions, and supports a range of programs that connect the humanities to other disciplines and areas of practice. Current multi-institutional initiatives seek to advance the role of the arts in the academic life of universities, and foster the interdisciplinary study of urbanism and the built environment. The program makes most of its grants to selected universities and institutes that are invited to apply, and also supports a limited number of competitions for individual fellowships that are administered by scholarly societies listed on the foundation's web site.

Scholarly Communications and Information Technology

The program supports the development of an information environment for use in research and teaching in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences. Within scholarly communications, the foundation's grantmaking has three main objectives: (1) to support libraries and archives in their efforts to preserve and provide access to materials of broad cultural and scholarly significance; (2) to assist scholars in the development of specialized resources, including primary sources and reference materials, which promise to open or advance fields of study; and (3) to strengthen the publication of humanistic scholarship and its dissemination to the widest possible audience. Information technology includes the design, development, implementation, and support of computer-based systems for converting, storing, protecting, processing, retrieving, and transmitting information in electronic form. Grantmaking in information technology focuses on the development of computer-based applications and systems that advance the objectives of the five core areas of foundation interest: the liberal arts and humanistic scholarship in higher education, scholarly communications, museums and art conservation, performing arts, and conservation and the environment. Because the foundation is rarely able to respond positively to unsolicited requests, prospective applicants for support in the program are encouraged to explore their ideas informally with program staff in a short e-mail describing their funding needs before submitting formal proposals. Letters of inquiry regarding ideas that fall within the program described above are welcome and reviewed throughout the year. Please direct all inquiries to: Donald J. Waters, email:, or Helen Cullyer, email:

South Africa

In the 1990s the foundation's representative in South Africa worked with a relatively broad mandate that allowed for grants reflecting the interests of programs in the arts, information technology, and scholarly communications as well as those in higher education. Since 2005 grants have been focused in the higher-education sector, with a half-dozen major research universities as the principal beneficiaries. A South African wing of the foundation's Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship has been established, and discrete efforts to promote links between North American and South African universities have been supported. Invitations to seek grants that are currently issued to South African universities emphasize the development of humanities fields and related social sciences and commonly seek to enable students from groups and regions that were disadvantaged during the apartheid era to attain advanced degrees and enter the professoriate. Like the foundation's programs in the US, the program in South Africa rarely funds unsolicited proposals and makes grants only to institutions, never to individuals. The program is not able to consider funding initiatives outside of South Africa. Send inquiries to: Stuart J. Saunders (e-mail: with a copy to Ekaterina Luehanskaya (e-mail: .

Fields of Interest

  • Arts and culture
  • Environment
  • Higher education
  • Humanities
  • Museums
  • Performing arts
  • Public affairs
International Interests
  • South Africa
Population Groups
  • Academics
  • Students

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $6,427,525,490 (market value)

Expenditures: $291,991,129

Total giving: $231,841,178

Qualifying distributions: $256,966,074

Giving activities include:

$887,123 for 28 employee matching gifts

$431,344 for foundation-administered programs