Photo by Cathy Pinsky
Freelancer Nathan Laliberte
What surprised you most when working on the Rockefeller story? I had no idea how committed the Rockefellers are to effecting change through global philanthropic ventures. From Asia to Africa to Westchester County, the family has funded everything from studies that develop climate change resilience in China to helping rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina—all through an extensive network of non-profit organizations.
What impressed you the most? During the course of my research, I read a number of biographies of John D. Rockefeller. His story, a true rags-to-riches tale, was both inspiring and humbling. His tremendous success came not by luck but through endless hours of hard work and perseverance. Even when he was a billionaire living in a townhouse on West 54th Street, it was reported that John D. was up at five am, going over matters related to Standard Oil and his burgeoning philanthropic efforts. Moreover, it was well known among family members that John D. was so obsessed with maintaining good health that he religiously chewed each bite of food exactly ten times—even soup! He may have been an obsessive and a bit of a control freak.
Are there any other Westchester families you’d like to research? I have always had a fascination with railroads. Jay Gould (who bought the Lyndhurst estate in 1880) was a railroad magnate and notorious financier. I could envision doing a profile of the Gould family (maybe just for a private tour of Lyndhurst) in the future.