Payne Whitney, ca. 1899
William Payne Whitney
March 20, 1876
|Died||May 25, 1927 (aged 51)|
|Alma mater||Yale University|
Harvard Law School
|Occupation||Investor, racehorse owner/breeder, philanthropist|
Helen Julia Hay
John Hay Whitney
|Parent(s)||William Collins Whitney|
|Relatives||See Whitney family|
William Payne Whitney (March 20, 1876 – May 25, 1927) was an American businessman and member of the influential Whitney family. He inherited a fortune and enlarged it through business dealings, then devoted much of his money and efforts to a wide variety of philanthropic purposes. His will included funds to expand the New York Hospital, now called NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, where the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic was established.
William Payne Whitney was born on March 20, 1876 to William Collins Whitney (1841-1904) and Flora Payne (1842-1893). His siblings included: elder brother, Harry Payne Whitney (1872-1930), Pauline Payne Whitney (1874-1916), and younger sister, Dorothy Payne Whitney (1887-1968).
Whitney was educated at the Groton School. He attended Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones,:171Delta Kappa Epsilon, and captained the Yale rowing team. After graduating in 1898, Whitney then studied law at the Harvard Law School, receiving his Bachelor of Laws in 1901.
In addition to a substantial inheritance from his father, Payne Whitney inherited $63,000,000 from his uncle, Col. Oliver Hazard Payne. Amongst his many investments, Whitney had major holdings in banking, tobacco, railroads, mining and oil. He was a member of the board of directors and/or an executive officer of several large corporations, including the City Bank New York, and the Great Northern Paper Company, and the Northern Finance Corporation.
A horse racing enthusiast in the tradition of his father and brother, Payne Whitney's Greentree Stable, named for their Long Island estate, was a very significant racing and breeding operation for thoroughbred horses.
Throughout his life, Payne Whitney was involved in philanthropic work for a variety of causes. A trustee of the New York Public Library, in 1923 he gave the library $12,000,000. Whitney made charitable contributions to the rowing team at his alma mater, Yale University, including donating funds to build a dormitory for the crew.
His will bequeathed more than $20 million to establish the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at Cornell University's medical school, now called Weill Cornell Medicine, and New York Hospital, now New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
Smaller amounts to other educational and medical institutions.  Although he had contributed $1,000,000 to the Yale Endowment Fund shortly before his death, sufficient estate funds were given to enable Yale's construction of the 9½ story Payne Whitney Gymnasium that too was completed in 1932. As a tribute to him, a road in Manhasset was named after him, Payne Whitney Lane.
On September 20, 1911, Whitney was aboard the RMS Olympic when it was rammed by the warship, HMS Hawke. Olympic was the sister ship of the RMS Titanic.
In 1902, Whitney married Helen Julia Hay (1875-1944), the daughter of then-United States Secretary of State (and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom) John Hay. Their Stanford White-designed mansion, Payne Whitney House at 972 Fifth Avenue, was a wedding gift from his maternal uncle, Oliver Hazard Payne. The couple also had an estate, Greentree, in Manhasset, New York. Together, they had two children:
Whitney died in 1927 at his Greentree estate.
London, Dec. 15--Mrs. Dorothy Payne Whitney Straight Elmhirst, philanthropist, pioneer in progressive education and suffragist, died last night at Dartington Hall near ...
Official webpage for NewYork Presbyterian Department of Psychiatry