Edward Stephen Harkness (January 22, 1874 – January 29, 1940) was an American philanthropist. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one of four sons to Stephen V. Harkness, a harness-maker who invested in the forerunner of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller's oil company. Harkness inherited a fortune from his father. His extensive philanthropies, many of them anonymous, were extended especially to colleges, hospitals and museums.
After graduating, Edward Harkness married Mary Stillman, daughter of William James Stillman. This family also had been associated with the Rockefellers. Harkness earned an LL.D from Columbia Law School.
Harkness made charitible gifts totaling more than $129 million, the equivalent of $2 billion in 2005 dollars. His philanthropic peers John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie gave respectively $550 million and $350 million over the course of their lives.
Harkness and his mother, Anna Harkness, gave substantial sums to several important non-profit enterprises. They refashioned Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. Mrs. Harkness, in memory of her husband, gave funds for the hospital's Harkness Pavilion. Harkness was a major benefactor of the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The museum's initial art of Ancient Egypt collection was a gift from Harkness.
In 1918 Anna Harkness established the Commonwealth Fund by an initial gift of $10,000,000, and Harkness was made its president. Their home, Harkness House, in New York is now the offices of the Commonwealth Fund.
Edward and Mary Harkness spent summers in the Eolia mansion on Long Island Sound in Waterford, Connecticut. The home and 230 acres (0.93 km2) of gardens and grounds are now maintained by Connecticut as Harkness Memorial State Park.
Harkness House, a student cooperative in Oberlin College; 'St Salvator's Hall at the University of St Andrews; Harkness Chapel at Connecticut College; Butler Library at Columbia University as well as the original portions of the Columbia University Medical Center and the undergraduate dormitories at Brown University, Harvard University, Yale University, and Connecticut College were built through his philanthropy or the philanthropy of Mary Stillman Harkness.
His philanthropy affected substantially several boarding schools, introducing the revolutionary Harkness table method of instruction, starting with Phillips Exeter Academy, and spreading to St. Paul’s, The Lawrenceville School, and Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. Harkness made gifts also to Taft School, Hill School and Phillips Academy.
He established the Harkness Fellowships and founded the Pilgrim Trust in the UK in 1930 with an endowment of just over two million pounds, "prompted by his admiration for what Great Britain had done in the 1914-18 war and, by his ties of affection for the land from which he drew his descent." The current priorities of the trust are preservation, places of worship, and social welfare.
He also made the gifts that established the Yale School of Drama and erected its theatre.
In the popular culture, Harkness, along with another wealthy neighbor, is said to had been the inspiration for Eugene O'Neill's off-stage character "Harker", the "Standard Oil millionaire", in Long Day's Journey into Night, the winner of the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.