The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to deepen knowledge and understanding in pursuit of a more democratic and just world.
We do so by nurturing knowledge communities and institutions, fostering dialogue across divides, enriching public discourse, amplifying diverse voices, and investing in leadership development.
We envision a world in which diverse people and communities thrive — determining their own best futures and working together in pursuit of knowledge and shared understanding.
Values and Commitments
For nearly a century, the Henry Luce Foundation has honored and been inspired by the lives and work of Henry R. Luce and of his parents, Henry Winters Luce and Elizabeth Root Luce. The Foundation recognizes that deepening understanding is essential to advancing justice, democratic values, peace, and a sustainable environment.
We believe that ideas, stories, data, creative expression, and scholarship are the tools that communities of all kinds and scales use to define themselves and their aspirations, to assert their rights, and to live and collaborate with others. Therefore, the Foundation invests in organizations, networks, and individuals who create, care for, and share knowledge for the benefit of their communities and the wider world.
We recognize that knowledge takes many forms and that knowledge makers pursue their work in many different ways, and so we cast a wide net, looking both to established and to emerging or under recognized thinkers. We also understand that change in the world of ideas can be slow, and so we commit to fields and questions for many years. At the same time, we know that new ways of thinking are always emerging often from unexpected directions and so we must be attentive to what is new and innovative.
We understand that our knowledge and judgment are limited and imperfect. Therefore, we approach our work in the spirit of partnership and humility, in pursuit of a better world.
In 1936, when he proposed to create a new foundation, Henry R. Luce was only 38 years old but already influential in American life. With his Yale College classmate Briton Hadden, he had founded Time magazine thirteen years earlier, followed in 1929 by Fortune, and in 1936 by Life. Luce made his first major gift in 1935, an endowment at Yenching University in Peking to honor his father’s work. The Foundation’s grantmaking became a tribute to his parents, Elizabeth Root Luce and Henry Winters Luce, Presbyterian missionaries and educators who worked in China during the first part of the twentieth century. Their four children—Henry, Emmavail, Elisabeth, and Sheldon—were all born in China.
The certificate of incorporation for The Henry Luce Foundation was filed in the office of New York’s Secretary of State on December 24, 1936, signed by the first four members of the foundation’s board and their counsel. The original board comprised members of Henry R. Luce’s family and colleagues at Time Inc. At their first meeting two days later, the directors accepted the foundation’s first contribution—38 shares of common stock of General Publishing Company—from Henry R. Luce, and elected Charles Stillman as the foundation’s first president and chief executive officer, positions he held for 22 years.