Dr. Mathilde Krim was an influential AIDS activist, geneticist, and virologist. She was the first female trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), serving in this role from 1971 to 1984.
Krim was born on July 9, 1926, in Como, Italy, and grew up in Switzerland. She earned her B.S. (1948) and Ph.D. (1953) in genetics from the University of Geneva. From 1952 to 1959 she worked at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and from 1959 to 1962 she conducted cancer research at Cornell Medical College in New York City. In 1962, she took a position as a research scientist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, where she stayed for more than two decades.
During Krim’s time as a Rockefeller Foundation Trustee, the RF sought to both promote more women within its ranks, and better incorporate women’s issues into its grantmaking. Under RF President John Knowles (1972-1979) the RF added two women, Krim and Jane Cahill Pfeiffer, to its Board of Trustees, and hired and promoted several women program officers. In 1981, RF President Richard W. Lyman (1980-1988) created a cross-divisional President’s Task Force on Women’s Programming, leading Foundation officers to increasingly turn their attention to women’s issues. Krim’s role as the first woman on the RF Board of Trustees was a crucial first step in these institutional changes.
In the early 1980s, Mathilde Krim began to focus her work on the growing AIDS epidemic. Her leadership and devotion to the cause was critical at a time when few government officials, scientists, and other influential individuals and organizations were willing to address the growing crisis. She founded the AIDS Medical Foundation in 1983, and in 1985, it and another organization were merged to create amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Under Krim’s leadership as Founding Chairwoman, amfAR focused primarily on AIDS research, education, and lobbying efforts. Her dedication and persistence helped bring national awareness and funding to the cause. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 2000.
Krim died on January 15, 2018 in Kings Point, New York. She was 91 years old.