48 Heroes Of Philanthropy

For the eighth straight year we spotlight notable philanthropists in the Asia-Pacific region, especially those who made news in the past year by launching new and innovative projects. The 48-member honor roll ranges from billionaires with expansive visions of how best to help society to less well-known business people whose generosity is also leaving a huge mark.

Our goal is not to rank the biggest givers–the figures would be impossible to collect. Instead we aim to call attention to people and causes. We try to identify a new group of altruists each year, though several people here are returning to the list because of an important donation or project announced since a year ago. And the goal is to pick only true philanthropists — people who are giving their own money, not their company’s (unless they own most of the company), because donating shareholder funds isn’t exactly charity.

We also don’t list people who work in philanthropy solely as foundation heads, volunteers or fundraisers. They’re crucial to carrying out the projects outlined here, but we want to focus on the people writing the checks and sketching the broad vision. Of course, many people here do several things — they donate their own money while also having their company kick in some funds. Either way, if our effort in compiling this roster encourages more people to support worthy causes, then it’s a success.

Here is the list, arranged alphabetically by country and by honoree within each country:


Clive Berghofer 79
Last August donated $45 million to the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, now renamed QIMR Berghofer. Had previously donated $5.5 million to the institute for a cancer research center in 2001. Left school at 13 to work in a sawmill; moved into land sales and property development in his hometown of Toowoomba. Has also supported local schools, sports clubs, hospitals and charities, as well as the University of Southern Queensland.

Audette Exel 51
Her ISIS Foundation helps more than 30,000 impoverished people each year in Nepal and Uganda, joining with local health care, education and infrastructure groups. Grew up in New Zealand, then worked as an international finance lawyer in Australia and Hong Kong. Appointed managing director of a Bermuda bank at age 30, then cofounded the foundation in 1998 and also ISIS (Asia Pacific) to fund its overhead costs. Now based in Sydney, the firm–which advises on corporate acquisitions and raises money for fund managers–has donated more than $7 million to the foundation.

Andrew Forrest 53
Donated $62 million to Western Australia’s five universities last October to fund scholarships and a residential college. In March launched the Global Freedom Network, an alliance between three major religions and his Walk Free Foundation to end slavery. Also works to boost job prospects and health care for the country’s indigenous people. Stepped down as CEO of iron-ore giant Fortescue in 2011 to concentrate on philanthropy. He and his wife, Nicola, were the first Australians to sign the Giving Pledge, in 2013, promising to donate most of their wealth to charity during their lifetimes.

James Packer 46
Established the $56 million Sydney Arts Fund in November, following government approval for his $2 billion casino resort on Sydney Harbour. Donation is divided equally between his family’s foundation and its half-owned casino operator, Crown Resorts. Half the funding will go to arts groups in Sydney’s poor, western suburbs.


Chen Feng 61
His privately held group, anchored by Hainan Airlines, donated $1.6 million last year to the UN World Food Programme to feed girls attending school in Ghana. A major shareholder, he drives the group’s philanthropic efforts, which also help youth, disabled people and environmental causes in China. Founded in 2000, as of December 2012 the group had donated $127 million.

Dang Yanbao 41
The head of this coal-processing company pledged $186 million last year to help university-bound students in his native Ningxia region of northwestern China. That will cover financial aid for 10,000 students through 2020. He’s helped more than 100,000 poor students in Ningxia over the last seven years, the state-run All China Women’s Federation said in a report in January. Beijing Normal University’s philanthropy research institute named him China’s No. 2 donor for 2013.

Fan Jianchuan 57
Spent $160 million to build and operate a still-growing, 32-building museum complex in Sichuan Province over the past eight years. The real estate developer and private collector dedicated eight buildings to memorabilia from the Sino-Japanese War era (1931-45) and 25 buildings to 8 million relics from the Cultural Revolution. Pieces include knives, battle plans and a hand grenade, plus a pistol that was used by Mao Zedong’s army in the 1930s. Some 10% of the relics are on display.

Ren Yuanlin 61
Gave $41 million to his foundation in December to support projects to increase respect for elders, workers and public service, according to the website of his city in Jiangsu Province. Set up the Jiangsu Yuanlin Charity Foundation in June 2012, largely to help a growing elderly population, and endowed it with roughly 28% of his stake in the company, or $750 million, according to philanthropy-research firm Kordant Philanthropy Advisors.


Thomas Chen Tseng Tao 88
Donated $650,000 to the Open University of Hong Kong in December. He and his wife, Eva Chen Hsu Ching Ming, established the Si Yuan Foundation in 1997 to support scientific research, education and medical causes in Hong Kong and China. Started property developer Hang Lung with his elder brother, the late Chan Tseng Hsi, in 1960. His nephews, Ronnie and Gerald Chan, run the group now.

Nellie Fong 65
Former chairman for China at PricewaterhouseCoopers started the eye hospital on a train in 1997. Project has grown beyond cataract operations in rural China to doctor training and a network of clinics (For Hong Kong’s Nellie Fong, Charity Begins Aboard A Train).

Robert W. Miller 81
Pledged $13 million in May to the Asia Society Hong Kong Center to promote and nurture local artists. The society called it “probably the largest single donation to the arts by an individual in Hong Kong.” The gift follows a $3 million gift to the society from Miller and his wife, Chantal, in 2004 that helped convert a former military magazine for storing ammunition into a theater.

Tin Ka Ping 94
Launched his Tin Ka Ping Foundation in 1982, giving it most of his assets. Earmarked another $257 million for it in 2011. Foundation aims to raise the quality of education in Greater China, from kindergarten through university. During the economic downturn in 2001 he sold his home in Kowloon Tong and moved to a modest rental apartment to free up more funds for the foundation. Born in China, he headed to Vietnam as a teenager and started a porcelain-clay business, only to have it shut down by Japanese occupiers. Moved on to Indonesia, where his rubber factories fell victim to rising anti-Chinese sentiment. Settled in Hong Kong and set up factories making plastics and chemicals.


Ashish Dhawan 45
His Central Square Foundation focuses on improving education in kindergarten through high school. It works with state governments and funds nonprofits to create a network of affordable schools, to train principals and to track the quality of teacher-training institutes, among much else. He’s pledged $8.5 million to the foundation and has also donated $3.5 million to the newly established Ashoka University, which aims to provide a world-class, liberal arts education at an affordable cost. A Harvard M.B.A. and former Goldman Sachs banker, he started private equity firm ChrysCapital after returning to India from the U.S. in 1999. Stepped down in 2012 to set up the foundation.

Desh Bandhu Gupta 75
Launched the Desh Bandhu & Manju Gupta Foundation (in his and his wife’s names) in 2012. Endowed it with $3.3 million in the past year and earmarked another $20 million to be spent over the next five years. It focuses on Maharashtra’s drought-prone Dhule district, where more than half the population lives below the poverty line. Money goes toward increasing crop productivity and promoting rural businesses, as well as skills training and dairy industry development. The pharma billionaire aims to create a rural development model that can be scaled up and replicated across the country.

Rohini Nilekani 55
Sold $27 million worth of shares in Infosys last August and is donating some of the money to causes such as improving the quality of the country’s laws and preserving biodiversity. Also plans to donate $1.7 million to India’s oldest think tank, the New Delhi-based National Council of Applied Economic Research. (Husband Nandan Nilekani, an Infosys cofounder who lost a race for parliament this year, has donated $5.8 million to the organization.) She’s given away roughly $40 million over the years, with most going to Arghyam, which supports projects to protect groundwater and improve sanitation. She started the Bangalore nonprofit in 2001.

Ajay Piramal 58
Pharma tycoon donated $6 million over the past four years to his Piramal Foundation. It works to reduce maternal mortality in rural Andhra Pradesh and operates water-filtration plants and vending machines for selling clean water in bulk at a low cost in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It also sponsors fellowships each year for 100 students from leading Indian colleges and business schools. Roughing it in remote parts of India for a couple of years, the fellows work with village school headmasters to improve education. Last December the foundation started the Piramal School of Leadership in Rajasthan, which facilitates a three-year program for school heads.


Theodore Rachmat 70
Supports scholarship programs at 17 major colleges and universities in Indonesia through his family’s A&A Rachmat Compassionate Service Foundation. More than 9,800 students have benefited. Also funds 32 medical clinics around the country that have provided affordable care to 698,000 patients. Backs Endeavor Indonesia, a nonprofit that helps develop high-impact entrepreneurs.

Sjakon George Tahija 62
George Santosa Tahija 56
Brothers run the Tahija Foundation. Biggest commitment is to the Eliminate Dengue-Yogyakarta project, part of a global research effort to eradicate the mosquito-carrying disease. It’s also involved in marine conservation–funding marine patrols and a pilot project to cultivate reef fish. It awards grants and scholarships to top students and funds archeological studies and the restoration of heritage buildings. The two are the only children of the late Julius and Jean Tahija, who started the foundation in 1990. Julius chaired Caltex Pacific Indonesia and cofounded Freeport Indonesia. Today the family-controlled Austindo boasts palm oil, mining and eye clinic businesses.

Tahir 62
Persuaded eight other local tycoons to each give $5 million to the Indonesia Health Fund, launched in April. His goal: Get another 12 Indonesian tycoons to pony up, raising a total of $100 million for a fund aimed at fighting tuberculosis and expanding family-planning programs. Microsoft’s Bill Gates came to Jakarta for the kickoff and said his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match the donations dollar for dollar, expanding the fund to as much as $200 million. Tahir began the series of big donations last year when he and Gates each pledged $100 million for a separate Global Health Fund to attack polio, malaria, HIV and other diseases (See With A Boost From Bill Gates, Vietnam’s Entrepreneurs Put Profits Into Philanthropy). In December he signed the Giving Pledge. (Tahir is the majority shareholder in Wahana Mediatama, which publishes FORBES INDONESIA.)

Pieter Tanuri 50
Veronica Colondam 42
Tanuri, head of the tire producer Multistrada, donates to the Jakarta-based YCAB Foundation, helps expand its programs and sits on the board. Colondam, his wife, manages the 15-year-old charity, which operates 40 schools and has granted $7 million in microfinance loans to low-income mothers with small businesses and children in school. She is about to start and then contribute to a $2.5 million fund that will allow the foundation to make more loans.


Soichiro Fukutake 68
Driven by a vision of bettering society through culture, he’s become one of Asia’s most ambitious sponsors of contemporary art projects. His Fukutake Foundation funds the Benesse Art Sites, a group of museums and art installations scattered across several islands in Japan’s Inland Sea and featuring architecture by Tadao Ando. Last year they hosted the second Setouchi Triennale, a three-month exhibition involving 200 Japanese and overseas artists and drawing more than 1 million visitors. Benesse operates Berlitz language schools, exam prep courses and nursing homes.

Tetsuro Funai 87
Started the Red Sox U.S. Japan Youth Baseball Exchange with the Red Sox Foundation in 2008. Each year Japanese teenagers visit Boston or Boston youths visit Japan for 12 days and learn about a different culture via their love of baseball. This summer 12 Japanese boys will visit Boston for baseball clinics and visits to cultural landmarks–following the path of pitchers Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa, who helped win the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox.

Kikka Hanazawa 43
Cofounded the Fashion Girls for Japan foundation to raise funds for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. After collecting more than $600,000 in 2011 and 2012, she and her partners renamed it Fashion Girls for Humanity to serve other areas of need. An auction last December to help survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines raised $111,500 for water filters. She and her women’s wear company (VPL is short for “visible panty line”) have contributed “significant resources” to the foundation, she says.

Hiroshi Mikitani 49
Has said he plans to give away much of his $7.7 billion online-retailing fortune. Main cause is raising the standard of English in Japan. Seeks to fund better English-language programs in schools. Made English Rakuten’s official language; all employees must pass English tests to get promoted. “English is not an advantage anymore it is a requirement,” he has said. In April gave $50,000 to the U.S.-based Global Citizens Initiative. The Harvard M.B.A. has ties to the U.S.–his father is an economist who taught at Yale, and his mother spent part of her childhood in New York.


Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary 62
In past decade has moved beyond Malaysia with his philanthropy, setting up refugee camps in Pakistan, orphanages in Guinea and rehabilitation programs for disaster victims in China, Indonesia and Iran. Has been opening hospitals and institutes in Uganda, South Africa, Nepal and Australia, in part to promote Islam. His Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur is holding more exhibitions and events, and expanding its collections. A university he started in his hometown, Alor Setar, doesn’t charge fees to poor students from anywhere in the world. As of a year ago his donations totaled more than $500 million.

Anthony Fernandes 50
His AirAsia Foundation has granted more than $200,000 since 2012 to groups such as Thien Chi Bamboo Bicycle to give off-season jobs to seasonal farm workers in Vietnam; Rags2Riches, to train 100 people to design and make bags in the Philippines; and Cambodia Living Arts, to train students of traditional performing arts. Other projects have included helping hill-tribe coffee farmers in Thailand who’ve been hurt by deforestation, preserving heritage buildings in Yogyakarta and setting up micro-hydro plants in Malaysia in communities without access to electricity. Another $200,000 will be disbursed this year. The foundation also raised more than $2 million for survivors of November’s Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to rebuild housing and help people start convenience stores in their homes.

Mina Cheah Foong 54
Devotes her time and money to causes that others find too controversial, such as opposing the forcible conversion of minors to Islam; assisting the transgender, sex worker and gay communities; and offering legal support and shelter for domestic violence victims. Began the Kick the Bag Habit campaign that led to a state levy on the use of plastic bags. Another environmental initiative helped persuade the government to declare Belum Temengor, in southern Malaysia, an ecologically sensitive rainforest area.

Ninian Mogan Lourdenadin 60
Contributed $15 million over the past ten years to charities dedicated to education and health care for children, and for Hindu temples in Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The London-trained medical doctor turned entrepreneur is a major shareholder of MBf Holdings, which boasts interests in printing, manufacturing, retail, car distribution and plantations in those countries. Last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours cited him, in part for his philanthropy.


Jose Mari Albert 64
In 2004 founded Operation Compassion, which supplies housing after natural disasters, such as the recent Typhoon Haiyan. Funds it with personal contributions and donations from his privately held company, which operates stores in the Philippines for the Italian sports brand Fila. His charity is now helping to build 400 shelters in devastated areas and developing temporary communities by adding latrines, bathing rooms, wells and areas for planting food. It also offers trauma counseling and feeding programs.

Angelo King 87
Started the foundation in 1978 and turned his full-time attention to it after retiring from business in 1999. Made his fortune with the Anito Hotels chain. Works with other organizations to address educational, cultural, health care and spiritual needs. Last year the foundation’s donations totaled $515,000–the interest on the amount in its capital fund.

Ricardo S. Po Sr. 83
Remembers experiencing hunger during his childhood and so in 2010 started his CPG-RSPo Foundation. Aimed at improving nutrition and alleviating hunger, it works with a network of partners, serving up to 3 million meals a year to schoolchildren. Started his canned food company in 1978 and earned the nickname “Mr. Tuna.” “God has been so kind to me that I feel compelled to give back in my own way by helping hungry children,” he explains.

Enrique Razon Jr. 54
Rehabilitated parts of the Philippines hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan. Charity work included rebuilding Tacloban’s airport and moving relief supplies through the seaport. His companies also put up $5.7 million for a hospital building. Called on port operators from as far as Madagascar to help. His ICTSI Foundation is repairing five day care centers in storm-wracked Samar Province. It normally donates to public schools and poor neighborhoods near its seven Philippine ports.


Chua Thian Poh 65
Has donated at least $10 million toward college-level education in Singapore since 2008, focusing on developing entrepreneurs and community leaders. Last July his Chua Thian Poh Entrepreneurship Education Fund sponsored a five-day entrepreneurship boot camp for a pioneer bunch of 28 students from the Institute of Technical Education. Made his money in property, most recently with high-profile projects in Singapore’s Sentosa Cove, China and the U.K.

Goh Cheng Liang 85
His 20-year-old Goh Foundation gave $40 million to the National Cancer Centre Singapore in March for cancer research and to help set up a proton-beam-treatment facility. It previously donated $10 million to the center and also has assisted education initiatives and other medical projects. Fortune built on a joint venture with Japan’s Nippon Paint that began in 1962.

Peter Lim 61
Last month endowed the Peter Lim Professorship in Peace Studies with a $2.4 million donation. The new post, at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, will be part of a program to study relations between religions. A U.S. think tank in April ranked Singapore as the world’s most religiously diverse society. The ex-stockbroker, who made much of his fortune by investing in palm oil giant Wilmar, has contributed at least $16 million over the past six years to sports and education causes such as scholarships.

Saw Swee Hock 83
Over a decade has given more than $30 million to universities in Singapore, China, Hong Kong and the U.K. An expert on population and statistics, he committed “significant” funds in April toward the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre at the London School of Economics, where he earned his doctorate. His largest reported contribution is $24 million in 2011 to launch the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore. His family made its money by investing in bungalows, in part with an inheritance from his businessman father-in-law.


Jeong Mun-Sul 76
In January gave KAIST, formerly the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology, $21 million to conduct brain science research and develop academic talent. Had also donated $235 million to the school–where he once served as chairman–in 2001 for information technology and business technology research. Believes in not using his wealth to enrich his children. Founded Mirae, a semiconductor-equipment manufacturing company, in 1983 and retired in 2001, turning over the reins to a longtime employee rather than to a family member.

Kim Yuna 23
After the Sewol ferry tragedy donated $100,000 to UNICEF to support survivors and victims’ families. Started her philanthropy back in 2007 when she first reached stardom and has given a total of $2.4 million to causes ranging from relief for victims of the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last November and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. Won a gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics and a silver medal this year. Now retired from skating, she supports young skaters and was instrumental in bringing the 2018 Winter Olympics to Pyeongchang. “Queen Yuna” also models, sings and hosts television shows.

Min Nam-Kyu 67
In April agreed to give Korea University $1 million a year for five years if the school will match it. The money would be spent on a facility to study how to make the environment more resilient in case of a nuclear disaster or global warming. He also devotes his philanthropy to arts and culture, sponsoring artists for the past several years. Founded the group in 1986, and today its three main companies–KD Chem, Jakang Industrial and JK Materials–make plastics and other petrochemical products.

Park Hui-Jeong 83
Endowed a $100,000 scholarship fund for KAIST students in January. Also donated $185,000 to her alma mater, Korea University, in November 2012 and expects to continue contributing yearly. She and her late husband, Ryu Geun-Chul, a groundbreaking doctor of Oriental medicine who also served as a professor at KAIST, signed over $55 million in real estate to the school for the Ryu Geun-Chul Sports Complex, which opened in 2010. A nursing graduate in the 1940s who was sent to study in New Zealand and the U.K. by the government, she returned home and worked as a professor and director of nursing at Korea University.


Hsu Hang-Chien 71
Gave $4 million last year to his alma mater, Tamkang University in Taipei, where he studied management science. After graduating at the age of 34, he began investing in stocks as a hobby, especially after retiring from Taiwan’s navy. It once bankrupted him, but today he boasts an overall gain of $20 million. School will use the donation, the largest it has ever received, to help build an international conference center. Slated to be completed in 2016, it will be named after his late father, Shou Chien, while serving as a reminder of the importance of investing.

Lee Pong-Shong 64
Started a foundation in 1997 in memory of his late father, Lee Ko-Yung. Aims to boost the island’s public library system, honoring his father’s dying wish. Donated $12 million to build four libraries, including $4.3 million for a new branch in Taipei that features a horticulture collection. Pledged an additional $2.3 million to help build a library in Yilan, in northern Taiwan, in the next year. His entrepreneurial father began by trading and reprocessing timber in Taiwan and then moved into making furniture in Thailand, founding the now-Thailand-listed Fancy Wood.

Robert Yeh 63
Contributed $3.4 million toward the construction of a 13-story building in downtown Taipei for his alma mater, the National Taipei University of Technology. Cut the ribbon last November to open the building, named for Everlight. The university’s electro-optical engineering department, which specializes in light-emitting diode, or LED, studies, and the Institute of Environmental Engineering & Management will take space in the building.

Samuel Yin 63
Last year donated $14.6 million to Taipei Veterans General Hospital and National Yang-Ming University for developing medical talent, and $4 million to help the government promote Taiwanese culture abroad. The culture ministry will invite 40 universities and institutions to introduce Taiwanese art, literature and movies to their cities. He’s also dedicated $100 million to establish the Tang Prizes, which recognize leaders in sustainable engineering, biotechnology and Han Chinese studies; the first were awarded last month. In 2011 he pledged to give away 95% of his wealth and shaved his head to show his determination. FORBES ASIA estimates his fortune at $4.48 billion (see p. 50).


Boonchai Bencharongkul 62
Built the $8.4 million, six-story Museum of Contemporary Art, the country’s largest privately funded museum. It opened in 2012 and boasts the largest permanent display of contemporary Thai art. The 400 paintings, drawings and sculptures from his personal collection include 100 works by Thawan Duchanee. Spends more than $1 million annually on staff and upkeep.

Tipaporn Chearavanont 45
Helped start the Buddharaksa Foundation, which refurbishes orphanages, provides children with scholarships and contributes to the maintenance and education of Buddhist clergy. Her Magnolia Quality property company sponsors environmental-protection activities and hands out the iCARE award to social enterprise projects that promote communal care and social awareness. Father is Dhanin Chearavanont, Charoen Pokphand Group chairman.

Vikrom Kromadit 61
Founded the industrial-estates developer but now spends most of his time writing books and hosting a radio program that promote his ideas about goal-setting and a simple Buddhist lifestyle. Has distributed 300,000 copies of his motivational books to schools and prisons. Last year led a seven-month, 40,000km vehicle caravan through China, Myanmar, Russia and Kazakhstan “to strengthen cultural diplomacy and international relations” and gather ideas for a scientific research center. Donated the land for the center to the government. Every year his Amata Foundation gives $144,000 to winners of painting and sculpture competitions and awards $33,000 to a senior literary writer.

Boonchu Trithong 69
The former member of Parliament and minister of university affairs has sworn off politics to devote more time and 25% of his wealth to educational causes. Donated $3 million last year for a new building on Thammasat University’s campus in the northern province of Lampang. In 1999 he had signed over land and $1.9 million for the first building on the campus, Bangkok-based Thammasat’s first in the north. Has since helped to construct dormitories and the library. Sponsors scholarships for needy northern students of all ages.


Susan J. Cunningham
Sunshine Lichauco de Leon
Gloria Hariato
Joyce Huang
Ralph Jennings
Neerja Pawha Jetley
Naazneen Karmali
Kim Hee-Joung
Noelle Lim
Brian Mertens
Robert Olsen
Anuradha Raghunathan
Yessar Rosendar
Lucinda Schmidt
Tatiana Serafin
Jessica Tan
Ardian Wibisono


John Koppisch

2014 ©

July 21, 2014