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I first became interested in the Rockefeller family when I wrote the lesson about Colonial Williamsburg in America the Beautiful. Williamsburg is an amazing place to visit and a popular destination for homeschoolers. The historic site has already hosted spring homeschooler days this year and their fall homeschooler days are planned for September 12-27.

So what do the Rockefellers have to do with Colonial Williamsburg, you might wonder? I learned the answer to that question when I wrote that lesson. John D. Rockefeller Jr. was a great benefactor to the project to restore Williamsburg, which began in 1926.

Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Colonial Williamsburg; Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. had become extremely wealthy in the petroleum industry during the second half of the 1800s. John D. Sr. created the Rockefeller Foundation, which gave money to charities. His son John D. Jr. followed his father’s footsteps.

However, John D. Rockefeller Sr. did not follow in the footsteps of his father, who was something of a huckster. He did follow in the footsteps of his mother, who taught him to work hard, to save money, and to give to charity. By age sixteen, he had a full-time job; and right from the start he gave to charity from his paycheck. By following his mother’s teachings about hard work, he was the sole owner of his own oil refining company by 1865. He was 24.

Several days ago I was doing research for From Adam to Us when I came across an article about the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. The current heir to the Rockefeller fortune, David Rockefeller, son of John D. Jr. and grandson of John D. Sr., is continuing the family tradition. He has donated money to the Rockefeller Museum, which was first funded by his father, so that all of its artifacts can be digitized. Photographs and detailed descriptions of every artifact are being prepared so that the public can have access to these online. The museum was originally called the Palestine Archaeological Museum when John D. Jr. donated the funds to build it in 1938 (twelve years after he donated money to help restore Colonial Williamsburg), but since the 1967 Israeli-Palestinian War, it has been called the Rockefeller Museum.

The article where I learned this information mentioned the age of David Rockefeller. He was 99 then. This month he turned 100. The article sent me on a brief search to learn more about the current heir. Naturally the article I found was about yet another act of philanthropy. This article was from Portland, Maine, where he had just donated 1000 acres of “woodlands, streams, hiking trails, and carriage roads” (Portland Press Herald, May 22, 2015) beside Acadia National Park — ten acres for each year of his life, he said.

These gifts are just the tip of a giant iceberg of philanthropy, by the way, and how about Colonial Williamsburg? Through homeschool conventions, I have become friends with someone who represents them at some of those conventions. I asked her recently if the Rockefellers are still involved. She assured me they are. I’ll say they are. According to the website, Inside Philanthropy, David Rockefeller himself has given Colonial Williamsburg $7.5 million. That’s what I call honoring your father!

I have a great deal of respect for non-profit organizations, but I realized a basic economic lesson a few years back. Governments can’t give money to poor people and individuals can’t give money to non-profits unless somebody makes money the old-fashioned way — by making a profit. It’s a principle our children need to learn. Still, money is just like every other thing in God’s whole creation. It is a tool for us to use to bring glory to God.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world
not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches,
but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works,
to be generous and ready to share.
1 Timothy 6:17-18

 

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