C of I alumna earns Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins ’72 has led a life full of accomplishments, from co-founding and leading outdoor clothing company Patagonia to preserving millions of acres of parklands in Argentina and Chile. This year, she will add another accomplishment as a recipient of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, one of the most prestigious prizes any philanthropist can receive.

Tompkins is one of eight honorees who will receive the medal in a formal ceremony at The New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Oct. 3. The medal, which is given out every two years by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is given to philanthropists the organization believe embody the ideals of American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who himself dedicated his vast fortune towards accomplishing “real and permanent good in this world.”

“The recipients of the 2017 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy were selected for their distinguished and longstanding contributions to the public good,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York. “The medal reflects Andrew Carneiie’s enduring legacy of philanthropy and is rooted in two core principles. First: with wealth comes responsibility. Second: individuals, whether guided by religious, civic, humanistic, or democratic aspirations, have the transformative power to use wealth for the betterment of mankind.”

A longtime advocate for conservation, Tompkins went on to embrace conservation as a career with her late husband, North Face founder Douglas Tompkins, following her retirement from Patagonia in 1993. Together, the two purchased around 2.2 million acres in Chile and Argentina. Kris formed her own organization, Conservacion Patagonia, in 2000, dedicated to forming national parks in Patagonia, including the 650,000 acre Patagonia National Park in Chile and 155,000-acre Estancia Monte León in Argentine Patagonia.

Tompkins’ efforts with the Tompkins Foundation, an umbrella organization she founded covering a wide range of conservation and environmental activism efforts, have allowed for the formation of multiple national parks, the reintroduction of endangered species to their native lands and restored degraded lands through the conservation of biodiversity. She and her husband have conserved more land than any other private individuals in history

Tompkins has received several earlier accolades for her conservation work, including the Lowell Thomas Award from The Explorer’s Club, the World Tourism Award from World Travel Market and a 2009 Honorary Doctorate from the C of I, where she was a member of the ski team as an undergraduate.

“You end up fighting for the places you love,” Tompkins said in a 2015 profile published by the Idaho-Press Tribune. “Imagine if you had a great piece of art and you just decided to keep that in the living room and no one gets to see that. If you keep it for the public, then it’s used and enjoyed and learned many, many hundreds of thousands of times over.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit