Buried with Faint Praise
It was to be expected that Paul Mellon’s passing would be much noted. But friends and family of the late philanthropist must have been at least a little surprised by the bizarre “tribute” offered to him by the editorial page of the New York Times. The article acknowledged that “a new generation of philanthropists” could do “no better than to emulate Mr. Mellon, who used his money to serve his own cultural passions and at the same time to benefit the public.” But the Times’ conclusion—“He loved horses, he loved art and he loved books. He would have been the first to say that life does not offer greater riches than affection for such things”—suggests a frivolousness that borders on the insulting.
What’s in a Name?
Most philanthropists are quite familiar with the delicate dance that accompanies what development people call “naming opportunities.” Such decisions typically require a tactful finessing of the line between appropriate gratitude and pomposity. So it must have been doubly mortifying for Raymond and Ruth Perelman of Philadelphia (parents of Ron) when their ongoing charitable discussions with Akiba Hebrew Academy in Merion, Pennsylvania were splashed across newspapers in Philadelphia and New York, inciting placard-waving protesters and public indignation. The dispute revolved around the school’s decision to consider renaming itself the “Perelman Hebrew Academy” in honor of the Perelmans’ proposed $2 million gift. In a close vote, the school voted not to make the switch, but the Perelmans still had to endure charges that they had tried to “dump” Rabbi Akiba, the 1st century rabbinical scholar, as well as chants of “Money is temporary, Akiba is forever.”
The Warm Fuzzies
Philanthropy is, etymologically, “love for mankind.” But it seems to have increasingly come to include love for animal-kind as well. The California-based Duffield Family Foundation has announced that it will spend $200 million to ensure that every stray dog and cat in America can find a home. The Duffields, who made their fortune from human resources software company PeopleSoft, are seeking to implement a national “no-kill” policy at animal shelters. They say that they were inspired by the love they received from “Maddie,” their adopted miniature schnauzer who died in 1997.
There He Goes Again
While the Duffields are spending to make sure that we have more pets, Ted Turner is spending to ensure that we have fewer people. Mr. Turner, who in 1997 famously and impulsively pledged to give $1 billion to the United Nations, insisted that to address the “crisis” of world population, people should “promise to have no more than two children.” According to the Washington Times, in a February 16 speech to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, Mr. Turner reported that he had consulted with Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich and his wife Anne as to what the ideal world population should be, and “They told me about 2 billion.” But how to get down to this figure? “We could do it in a very humane way,” Mr. Turner assured the audience, “if everybody adopted a one-child policy for 100 years.” Between needling “dumb” members of Congress and insulting the Pope (for which he later apologized), Mr. Turner concluded that “People who think like us may be in the minority, but we’re the smart ones.”
A Timely Bequest
Albert Einstein was apparently right when he declared that the most powerful force yet discovered by man was that of compound interest. When Dutch clock-maker Johannes Coloembie died in 1805, he left 16,000 guilders (about $8,510) to benefit the poor of his home town of Haarlem. He insisted, however, that the money not be spent until 140 years after the death of his last servant, who survived until 1859. Despite some major financial setbacks, notably the elimination of its “long” position in Russian railroads when they were nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1917, Coloembie’s initial bequest has now grown by a factor of 575—to a staggering 9.2 million guilders ($4.9 million).
Court to PBS: No More Monkee Business
Former Monkee (the pop band, not the primate) Mike Nesmith has won $46 million in damages in a lawsuit against the Public Broadcasting Service. Nesmith claimed that PBS had promised to help his video distribution business, Pacific Arts, but had in fact betrayed their agreement by persuading producers to terminate their distribution agreements with Pacific Arts and sign up directly with PBS instead. His suit alleged that PBS built up a $27 million business through this arrangement. “It’s like finding your grandmother stealing your stereo,” Nesmith told Reuters. “You’re happy to get your stereo back, but it’s sad to find out your grandmother is a thief.” He added: “They lied to me, they cheated me, they made an attempt to get the catalogue dishonestly.” PBS said it would appeal the verdict.