Death of David Rockefeller felt on First Coast

David Rockefeller, Sr, the grandson of Standard Oil founder and America’s first billionaire John D. Rockefeller, died on March 20, 2017. He was 101-years-old.

The Standard Oil partners included Henry M. Flagler; the railroad pioneer who built the former Hotel Ponce de Leon in 1888. The National Historic Landmark has been the centerpiece of the Flagler College campus in St Augustine since 1968.

Rockefeller was the oldest living billionaire in the 2017 rankings of the world’s richest, which was published on the day of his death.

An heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, he was also philanthropist who donated $150 million to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which his mother co-founded. He was perhaps best known in his post-WWII role as the head of Chase National Bank.

Two prominent local businessmen with close ties to David Rockefeller, not only settled in Saint Augustine, but they continued to advance Rockefeller’s vision of his legacy. That vision involved the sharing of business tools, connections and resources to specifically help those less fortunate fight adversity and reap the benefits of the American dream.

In the 1970’s, Joseph Nolan and Raul Espinosa worked with David Rockefeller in support of his philanthropy, corporate responsibility, art collection and numerous diversity programs that helped minority, women and veterans. Rockefeller promoted the appointment of minority and women to Board of Directors; influenced government policy towards communities of color and encouraged the business sector to create job opportunities for those groups. They were all principles Rockefeller instilled in both Nolan and Espinosa.

After retiring, Nolan became an adjunct professor at UNF and Flagler College where he taught how to apply those tools and processes before his passing in 2011. Dr. Bill Abare, President of Flagler College remembered Dr. Nolan by saying, “He was one of the brightest, sharpest, and most talented professors we have ever had at Flagler College.”

Rockefeller recommended Espinosa to the White House where he used those same principles while serving three U.S. Presidents. After settling in the First Coast, Espinosa, along with Dr. Henry Thomas, an UNF professor, established a think tank of university and law professors to help identify barriers that adversely affect women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.

When given an opportunity, Rockefeller believed that he should offer to serve as a role model and leverage his influence and connections to help those less fortunate reap the benefit of the American dream.

By eliminating those barriers, it is believed affected business owners could participate in the $3 trillion-dollar public procurement marketplace, Espinosa told Historic City News.

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