May 14, 2020 — It is with great sadness that we report that Richard “Dick” Gilder ’50, a member of the Northfield Mount Hermon Board of Trustees from 1968 to 1976 and a lifelong supporter of the school, died peacefully on May 12, at age 87, in Charlottesville, Virginia. A lifelong devotee of history and an outstanding philanthropist, Dick has had a lasting impact on the way we interpret the past and look toward the future. His transformational gift for a new science and math center at NMH remains the largest cash gift in the school’s history. Currently under construction, the Gilder Center will help NMH bring math, science, and technology education to an even higher level.
Dick was a four-year student at NMH and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University in 1954. He enrolled in Yale Law School but after one semester went to work as a broker and dealer with Chicago-based investment bank A.G. Becker and Co., where he rose to vice president by 1963. In 1968, after briefly working as a broker for Neuberger and Berman, a private, independent, employee-owned investment management firm in New York, Dick started his own brokerage firm in New York, Gilder Gagnon Howe and Co. LLC. and acquired a seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
In addition to his lead gift for the Gilder Center, Dick made gifts for financial aid at NMH as well as substantial contributions to the school’s capital campaigns and lecture programs, and to his reunion gifts. He also supported the Rhodes Arts Center theater, which was named the Lois C. Chiles Theater in honor of his wife, an actress. The Wall Street Journal called this gift a tribute to Gilder’s “Two Loves”: Northfield Mount Hermon and Lois Chiles.
“Dick Gilder epitomized the NMH mission of living and acting with humanity and purpose,” Head of School Brian Hargrove said. “As a proud and loyal member of the Class of 1950, Dick supported his alma mater at every turn. Dick’s financial support has provided a foundation for NMH to meaningfully impact NMH students and faculty, programs, and place. He endowed scholarships and critical discretionary funds for the head of school; he invested in Alumni Hall renovations and an annual speaker series; and, most recently, he and his wife, Lois, provided the lead gift to the school’s new math and science center named in his honor.”
Dick, whom The Wall Street Journal has called one of New York’s “most notable philanthropists,” made these gifts simply because “four years at NMH changed my life and I wanted to repay the school.”
“The most meaningful time of my life was during my years at NMH,” he said, explaining his long-standing support of the school. “It was a wonderful period.”
Dick credited the support of his teachers—especially Tommy Donovan, an English teacher who worked with him when he was editor of the school newspaper—and friends who helped build him into the person he was. He was proud to receive an Alumni Citation and NMH’s Distinguished Service Award.
Dick was a trustee of the Central Park Conservancy, which he helped establish; a trustee of the American Museum of Natural History; and a trustee of the New York Historical Society. He was a co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, which sponsors national educational programs in American history. In 2005, President George W. Bush honored him with the National Humanities Medal in recognition of his contribution to the understanding of history. In honor of his daughter Virginia, a Yale graduate and former Olympic silver medalist in rowing, Dick gave the lead gift for a new boathouse at Yale, which awarded him an honorary degree and a Yale Medal for his service. Other organizations he supported include the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, Historic Hudson Valley, and the Pierpont Morgan Library, where he helped build the Gilder Lehrman Collection of American history documents.
“Dick’s love of country, extraordinary business acumen, and commitment to serve others offer each of us a collective shining example of civic engagement, scholarship, and philanthropy,” Hargrove said. “Dick, Lois, and their family have been incredible difference-makers through their work and in their communities.”
In addition to his wife, Lois Chiles, Dick leaves four children — Peggy, Virginia, Britt-Louise, and Richard III. His NMH family members include his niece, Jessica M. Dempsey ’05, his cousin, Elizabeth C. Goss ’01, and his granddaughter, Ava M. Lindstrom.