Charles Koch has been nurturing a lot lately. He is giving away money to a range of recipients in hopes of advancing emerging academic understanding of everything that goes into “well-being.” Over the past year, Koch’s grantmaking arms have convened gatherings on subjects ranging from the value of a college education, to ways of encouraging economic mobility, to criminal law reforms, to how creation of new businesses can be encouraged.
In one event, Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, data researcher Robert Morse of U.S. News & World Report, and Mike Rowe, creator of the TV show “Dirty Jobs,” met to discuss whether college, with rising tuition costs, remains the best path to success, and for whom, and what the alternative paths to the workforce might be. A program at Catholic University’s school of business is researching how economic freedom and ethical businesses can lift communities out of poverty. At Baylor University the Charles Koch foundation is supporting a center that investigates how entrepreneurship connects to “human well-being.” A Koch gift will help to build a Ph.D. program in entrepreneurship at historically black Fayetteville State University.
Most recently, the United Negro College Fund announced one of its largest gifts ever, from Charles Koch and his brother David. The $25 million donation will provide about 3,000 merit-based scholarship awards for African-American undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students, as well as $4 million for 37 historically black colleges. The scholarships will give students the opportunity to explore how economics, entrepreneurship, and innovation can increase quality of life for individuals, communities, and society.
The “ultimate goal is to help people improve their lives,” explains Koch. “That’s the proper role of business,” he says, “and the essence of my philanthropy.”