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In its 2005 list of the 25 most influential U.S. evangelicals, Time magazine described former religion reporter Roberta Green Ahmanson and husband Howard simply as "The Financiers." Indeed, that is what they are. But these are no ordinary philanthropists. Roberta, 61, and Howard, 60, are among a rare breed of donor who invests as much intellectual and emotional capital in the projects they support as their Fieldstead and Company philanthropy does vast sums of money. (One source who declined to be identified estimates Fieldstead's annual giving in the low eight figures based on its projects and staff size.) While Howard's name is at the fore of their notoriety, as heir to his father's H. F. Ahmanson & Co. savings and loan fortune, Roberta's passion and intellect have shaped a good deal of their giving in the quarter century they've been married.

Consider Fieldstead's $20 million investment into Roberta's hometown of Perry, Iowa. It was Roberta's vision that led to an elaborate restoration of the historic Hotel Pattee and the installation of an iconic downtown gateway by acclaimed sculptor Albert Paley. So too did Roberta's vision secure Paley gates at the Orange County Rescue Mission's Village of Hope in Tustin, California—and at the Ahmansons' meticulously designed beachfront home in Corona del Mar. Orange County Register sources valued the home at $30-$35 million last January.

The Ahmansons' critics focus on their support for conservative causes like Proposition 8 (their donations totaled approximately $1.4 million in 2007-2008), and for conservative thinkers like the late and much reviled Christian Reconstructionist Rousas John Rushdoony. The secular media especially have made and repeated these criticisms over the ...

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In the Magazine

January 2011

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