Jerome Greene is notable for his crucial role in the early years of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF).
Jerome Greene, the son of American missionaries, was born in Japan in 1874. He was the younger brother of Roger Greene (who played a key role in the RF’s work in China). Greene spent the majority of his childhood in Japan but returned to the United States to finish high school. He went on to attend Harvard University in 1896. After obtaining his undergraduate degree, he enrolled in Harvard Law School but left without completing his degree. Greene then worked in a variety of positions before returning to Harvard in 1901 to serve as Secretary to President Charles Eliot. He went on to serve as Secretary to the Harvard Corporation from 1905 to 1910.
In 1910 Greene was appointed business manager of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (RIMR). Two years later, he joined John D. Rockefeller, Sr.’s personal staff. In this position Greene became instrumental in securing a charter for the RF from the New York State Legislature in 1913 and he served as the first secretary of the new foundation. He was also one of the organization’s original trustees, serving from 1913 to 1917 before leaving to join an investment banking firm and to serve as an appointed member of the Council of National Defense during World War I. At the war’s end, Greene became Executive Secretary of the Reparations Section of the American Peace Mission.
In 1928 Greene returned to the RF’s Board of Trustees and served until his retirement from the Board in 1939. In addition to the RF’s Board, he also served as a trustee of the RIMR and the General Education Board (GEB). In 1936 he returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and to his position as Secretary of the Harvard Corporation, where he remained until his retirement in 1943.
In addition to his instrumental role in the founding of the RF, Greene was also a founding member of a number of other important organizations. In 1916, along with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Charles Eliot, he founded the American Social Hygiene Association. He was also a founding member of the Institute for Government Research, which went on to become the Brookings Institution, and the Institute for Pacific Relations.
Jerome Greene died on March 29, 1959, at the age of 84. His papers are held at the Harvard University Archives.