(RNN) - Billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr. died Monday in his sleep at his Pocantico Hills home, according to his spokesman. He was 101 years old.
He was a retired international banker and the last surviving grandchild of John D. Rockefeller, the Standard Oil founder. His charitable activities earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, and he marked his 100th birthday by giving 1,000 acres of land to the state of Maine in 2015.
Although he rejected opportunities to hold political office, including secretary of the treasury and ambassadorial posts, Rockefeller met many heads of state as the longtime leader of what is now Chase Bank and engaged in international diplomacy.
His advice was not always good.
"He is perhaps most infamous for helping to precipitate the Iran hostage crisis by encouraging President Jimmy Carter to admit the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to the U.S. for hospital treatment," Forbes said. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Iran for 444 days, a black mark on the Carter presidency that contributed to his loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.
Rockefeller, in a 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, said Iran would be better today had the shah remained in power.
"It is certainly true that he had secret police that did bad things,” Rockefeller said. "But I think that he saw what needed to be done in Iran in the way of education and health and in many other areas, and he took steps to do something."
Rockefeller's grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, was the major shareholder of what was once the largest oil refiner in the world.
During his life, David Rockefeller donated more than $150 million to Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art, which his mother co-founded.
Rockefeller had pledged to leave $100 million to the museum, $100 million to Harvard University and $100 million to Rockefeller University, founded by his grandfather.
He set up bequests ranging from a few million dollars to hundreds of millions of dollars.
"There are a number of organizations that will see their finances radically change after David Rockefeller dies," Inside Philanthropy said.
He earned a bachelor's degree in English history and literature from Harvard (1936) and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago (1940).
The private Illinois university was an educational institution that his grandfather, John D., America's first billionaire, helped found with a donation equivalent in today's currency to roughly $16 million.
During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army in North Africa and France and rose to the rank of captain.
After the war, he joined Chase Manhattan Bank (now Chase Bank), which the family controlled, and rose through the ranks. He became the bank's chairman of the board (1969 - 81) and chief executive officer (1969 - 80).
In 1973, he formed the Trilateral Commission, a private organization to encourage greater cooperation between Japan, North America (Canada and the United States) and Europe (European Union countries). The group's 350 members have been criticized as working to promote the economic interests of its wealthiest members.
He was born June 12, 1915, to John D. Rockefeller Jr., the only son of the Standard Oil founder, and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, a socialite and philanthropist.
He was the youngest of his parents' six children. His sister, Abigail (1903 - 976), avoided the public eye.
But David and his brothers took on more public roles, with two going into politics. Nelson (1908 - 1979) was a vice president of the United States (1974 - 1977) under President Gerald Ford and a New York governor (1959 - 1973). Winthrop (1912 - 1973) was an Arkansas governor (1967 - 1971).
John (1906 - 1978) and Laurance (1910 - 2004) were known for their philanthropy, and Laurance was also a businessman and a conservationist.
David Rockefeller Sr. and his wife, Margaret Peggy McGrath (1915 - 1966) had six children: David Jr. (1941), Abby (1943), Neva (1944), Peggy (1947), Richard (1949) and Eileen (1952).
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