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Our History

About the Foundation

Barra has been supporting innovation since 1963. The late Robert L. McNeil, Jr., the former Chairman of McNeil Laboratories, created the Foundation to support nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region. His tireless philanthropy perennially encouraged innovative ideas and concepts, which remain the main focus of the Foundation today.


About Our Founder

Mr. McNeil was born in 1915 and grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, attending Germantown Academy. After graduating from Yale University and the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (now known as the University of the Sciences), Mr. McNeil began his career in 1936 as a part-time employee at his grandfather’s company, McNeil Laboratories. The company began as a neighborhood drug store in 1879 and had steadily grown into a successful drug marketing concern. After Mr. McNeil joined the family business, he spearheaded the transformation of McNeil Laboratories into a major pharmaceutical company, and was eventually responsible for developing and marketing such breakthrough products as Butisol™ and Tylenol™. In 1959, McNeil Laboratories was purchased by Johnson & Johnson.

With a strong sense of community and an ardent passion for the arts, Mr. McNeil championed countless organizations in the Philadelphia area. Throughout his life, his thoughtful backing of myriad charitable causes contributed significantly to the well-being of the region.