Nettie McCormick Bolsters Religious Schools

  • Religion
  • 1889

Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of important farm machinery, was a generous religious philanthropist, giving away at least $550,000 in the second half of the nineteenth century to religious organizations—mostly the Presbyterian church, seminaries, and other schools. His wife, Nettie, raised in a devout Methodist and devotedly philanthropic home, outlived her husband by 39 years and became an even more prolific giver to religious causes on her own, starting in 1889. She felt strongly that she was accountable to God for how she used the money entrusted to her, and sought gifts that had a crisp moral purpose, a spiritual or educational benefit, and a chance of helping recipients better themselves.

Nettie gave away millions of dollars. Orphanages, schools, colleges, hospitals, and relief agencies all benefited from her endowments. She took a strong interest in schools like Tusculum College, the Moody Bible Institute, and Princeton University in the U.S. And her large gifts made several Christian colleges and hospitals possible overseas, including Alborz College in Tehran, and a theological seminary in Korea. It has been estimated that McCormick was the lead funder of at least 46 schools, and possibly more.