Ronald P. Stanton, a refugee from Nazi Germany who made a fortune in petrochemicals and then gave or pledged more than $300 million to various charities, most of them in New York, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88.
Fred Lowenfels, the general counsel emeritus of Mr. Stanton’s company, Trammo Inc., confirmed the death.
Mr. Stanton founded Trammo as Transammonia Inc. in 1965. By 2009 it was one of the largest privately owned companies in New York. Trammo markets, trades, distributes and transports ammonia, fertilizers, liquefied petroleum gases, petrochemicals, coal, sulfuric acid and sulfur.
“I structured Transammonia so that individual traders create their own businesses, using their own talent and creativity and personal business philosophies,” Mr. Stanton wrote in an autobiography in 2010.
He used his wealth to support charities and organizations he cared about. When his $100 million gift to Yeshiva University was announced in 2006, it was described as the largest single gift ever given in support of Jewish education in the United States.
For much of his life Mr. Stanton insisted on donating anonymously. But when he gave $25 million to Lincoln Center in 2008, a friend suggested that he take the naming rights of a new pedestrian plaza there to acknowledge his family’s ties to the city and to establish a legacy of charitable giving for his children to follow.
He heeded the advice. The plaza at Lincoln Center between 62nd and 65th Streets is now Ronald P. Stanton Way. Other locales also bear his name.
“He believed that when you made good money, it was your obligation to give it away,” Mr. Lowenfels said.
Mr. Stanton was born Ronald Philip Steinberg on March 26, 1928, in Wiesbaden, Germany. His mother, the former Hedwig Kern, divorced his father, Eric Steinberg, shortly after giving birth. She and Ronald then moved to live with her parents, Leo and Beatrice Kern, in Mainz.
When Hitler rose to power in 1933, Mr. Stanton’s mother began smuggling cash to Switzerland. She used it to escape with her son to New York in 1937. A year later, Mrs. Steinberg’s mother followed. (By then her father had died.)
Mr. Stanton’s paternal grandparents, Moritz and Friedel Steinberg, remained in Wiesbaden, where they were part of a group of Jews who committed mass suicide to avoid deportation to concentration camps.
In New York, Mr. Stanton attended public schools and changed his last name from Steinberg after high school. He earned a bachelor’s degree from City College of New York in 1950. After serving in the United States Army, he joined the International Ore and Fertilizer Corporation and began rising through the ranks, becoming executive vice president of its fertilizer trading division. He left that position to incorporate Transammonia.
Mr. Stanton served on numerous boards, including those of Yeshiva University, Lincoln Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
He is survived by a son, Oliver, from his first marriage, to the former Ruth Schloss; a daughter, Hedi Stanton, and a son, Philip, from his second marriage, to Mei Wu; and three grandchildren. Both marriages ended in divorce.
An art collector, Mr. Stanton owned works by Renoir, Matisse and Picasso, among others. And as a fan of Baroque opera he once financed a production of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s “Atys,” which was staged in Brooklyn, Paris and Versailles.