It is not well very known either in India or the United States that the inspiration behind the setting up of the Rockefeller Foundation was none other Swami Vivekananda. The story goes that when Swamiji visited Chicago during the famous Congress of World Religions, he was staying in Chicago with some American admirers, one of whom was a business associate of John D. Rockefeller.
Rockefeller at that time was a young upcoming multimillionaire but had not quite reached the peaks he reached in terms of financial success in his later life. Swamiji's hosts informed the young Rockefeller of an "Indian swami" who was in their house and that he must simply make it a point to seek an audience with him. The young and arrogant Rockefeller was disdainful and expressed his unwillingness to meet the Swami. But his hosts persisted.
Acting on impulse, he one day rushed to the house that Swami Vivekananda was staying. The butler ushered him into the study where Swamiji was sitting at his study table but did not even life his eyes to see who had entered. Later, Swamiji told Rockefeller that much of his past that was not known to anybody else was known to him and that the money he had accumulated was merely a channel provided to him by God to do good to the world.
Extremely annoyed that somebody could have spoken to him like that, Rockefeller left the room in a huff without saying goodbye. But he returned a week later and once again entered Swamiji's study without being announced and threw on the desk a paper containing a plan to donate an enormous sum of money towards the financing of a public institution.
"Well, there you are," said Rockefeller, "you must be satisfied now, and you can thank me for it." Swami Vivekananda did not even life his eyes. He took the paper and after reading it quietly said: "It is for you to thank me." That was all. This was John D. Rockefeller's first large donation to the cause of public welfare.
The Rockefeller Foundation was subsequently established in 1913. It has spent more than fourteen billion dollars to thousands of grantees worldwide and has directly assisted in the training of 13,000 Rockefeller Fellows. The focus of its philanthropic activity include medical, health, and population sciences, agricultural and natural sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences and international relations.