NPR's Huge Gift

National Public Radio is in no danger of going off the air any time in the next century, thanks to a massive gift from the estate of philanthropist Joan B. Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc.

On November 6, NPR president Kevin Klose announced that his organization would receive a bequest of more than $200 million from Mrs. Kroc's estate. More than twice NPR's annual operating budget, the gift was said to be "among the largest ever given to any American cultural institution." Mrs. Kroc also bequeathed $5 million to San Diego NPR station KPBS, one she listened to frequently at her estate in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.

"Joan Kroc believed deeply in the power of public radio to serve the communities of America," Klose stated. "She made this extraordinary gift from her steadfast conviction that NPR and our member stations provide a vital connection to millions of listeners."

Mrs. Kroc died of cancer October 12, at the age of 75. She was fond of NPR's "unsanitized" presentation of the news, her attorney said. The philanthropist gave generously to organizations promoting world peace, as well as to those offering assistance to victims of diseases and natural disasters. She supported Fred Rogers' children's programs, the Betty Ford Center, and Notre Dame University. She also bequeathed $100 million to the Salvation Army.

The gift to NPR will increase its ten-year-old Endowment Fund for Excellence by a factor of ten, said foundation chairman John A. Hermann, Jr. The fund provides "support for NPR activities independent of other revenue sources," according to an announcement on the NPR website. NPR stations will still engage in their twice-yearly drives for donations, commentator Scott Simon noted on November 8. NPR plans to keep Mrs. Kroc's gift "safe," he said, drawing only on the interest it generates. NPR stations no longer need to "worry about survival," according to Simon, "only about growing up and getting better."