Rosamond Gifford was born in 1873, the daughter of William Gifford who served as the city of Syracuse’s district attorney. Her mother’s family was from the Tully area, and Rosamond spent much of her early years there. Rosamond was an accomplished musician and spent several years studying the harp in Boston.
After an early, brief marriage, she took back the Gifford last name and eventually returned to the Syracuse area permanently in 1913 when her father asked her to take over his farm and business affairs. At his passing in 1917 she inherited an estate of $1.25 million and in 1929 moved from the Thompson Road farm (later sold to the Society of Jesus, who founded Le Moyne College on the property) to Jewell NY on the shores of Oneida Lake. There she spent her remaining years in relative seclusion, coming to Syracuse only to visit her lawyer or banker.
It was these gentlemen who helped Rosamond establish a private foundation to be endowed upon her death. Rosamond disliked the idea of the federal government getting any of her money – she made her income tax payments out to the “Infernal Revenue Service” – and her will established the Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation, now commonly known as The Gifford Foundation. It contained no specific instructions as to grantmaking goals, identifying “religious, educational, scientific, charitable or benevolent uses.” Upon her death in 1953 (ironically on Tax Day) the estate was valued at over $5 million.
Since its inception the Gifford Foundation has invested approximately $38 million in our community through its grants, helping start up and/or build some of our major educational and cultural institutions. Throughout the years the Foundation has provided an array of community grants, many of which were for equipment, computer systems and capital projects. In 1995 we helped launch the Rosamond Gifford Lecture Series and a $2 million gift in 1999 funded the educational endowment fund at the newly renamed Rosamond Gifford Zoo. The Gifford Scholarship Program, which paid the cost of college education for 134 individuals, was active between 1957 through 1980.
The Foundation in recent years began a shift in its grantmaking strategies. This included a more proactive approach, smaller grants to more grass-roots organizations, and extensive outreach in the community. We became dedicated to addressing causes and sources of community issues rather than just the symptoms – in short, in building the capacity of the community as well as its organizations.
The Rosamond Gifford Charitable Corporation (The Gifford Foundation) is a private foundation dedicated to the stewardship of the funds entrusted to its care by Rosamond Gifford in 1954. The Foundation is committed to using its financial and human resources to build the capacity of individuals and organizations to enhance the quality of life for the people of Central New York.