Growing the Giving Pledge
The Giving Pledge campaign added 17 new signatories on December 8, making a total of 57 billionaires who have promised to dedicate at least half of their wealth to charity. Several of the new signers have already distinguished themselves by their philanthropy. Ted Forstmann, for example, has long been a leader in education reform, launching the Children’s Scholarship Fund to help low-income families send their children to private and parochial schools. Michael Milken has led efforts to speed up medical innovation, and has made improving teacher quality a top priority of the Milken Family Foundation. Facebook co-founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, both aged 26, became the youngest signers of the pledge. The 13 other new signers include Carl Icahn, Joe and Rika Mansueto, Nicolas Berggruen, Sidney Kimmel, Tom and Cindy Secunda, Charles and Merryl Zegar, Lee and Toby Cooperman, Duncan and Nancy MacMillan, David and Barbara Green, Denny Sanford, Lyda Hill, George P. Mitchell, and Jean and Steve Case.
Restoring the Morgan
The year is 1909; the setting, John Pierpont Morgan’s personal library. As described by biographer Jean Strouse, Morgan comes across a receipt “for a bust of the infant Hercules, ostensibly by Michelangelo, for which he had paid £10,000. He sent the bill to his librarian with a note asking where the sculpture was. ‘This bronze Bust is in your library,’ she wrote in green ink across the bill, ‘and faces you when sitting in your chair. It has been there about a year.’” Such are the riches in Morgan’s collection. Good news, then, that in October, after a $4.5 million restoration, the historic centerpiece of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City re-opened. The renovation of the Italianate-style McKim Building, which housed Morgan’s personal study and library, expands from 30 to 300 the number of artifacts that can be displayed. Among the treasures of the Morgan: a letter from Queen Elizabeth I, the Reims Gospel Book, one of the earliest editions of the Canterbury Tales, Mary Shelley’s annotated copy of Frankenstein, the 1530 Verrazano Globe, a life mask of George Washington, and a set of 5,500-year-old Near Eastern cylinder seals. All in all, a fitting new home for J. P. Morgan’s acquisitions, which constitute, as British historian and critic Paul Johnson puts it, “after the Library of Congress, the British Library, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, the finest collection of rare books and manuscripts in the world.”
Perhaps Not “Every”?
“Every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century, and the 19th century, has required government vision and government incentive,” said Vice President Joe Biden during an autumn 2010 campaign stop in New York City. His example, as reported by the New York Daily News, was the transcontinental railroad. (Left unmentioned was James J. Hill’s Great Northern, the sole 19th-century transcontinental railway built without government money, which was coincidentally one of the few major railways to survive the Panic of 1893.) For a sprinkling of “great ideas” spurred by philanthropic vision—the Rosenwald schools, the Green Revolution, Carnegie libraries, the eradication of hookworm, microfinance, the polio vaccine, the civil rights movement, and Teach For America—you can read the special symposium in this issue. The list is far from exhaustive, to be sure, and it does not contain any examples from the for-profit sector.
New Study on High-Net-Worth Donors
According to a November 2010 Bank of America Merrill Lynch study, high-net-worth individuals and families account for two-thirds of individual giving—and half of all charitable giving—in the United States. Although 98 percent of high-net-worth households (those with total non-residential assets of over $1 million) make charitable donations, those gifts were notably affected by the recession: average household giving fell 34 percent from 2007 to 2009, from $83,000 to $54,000. Finally, the study reported that “67 percent of wealthy households would somewhat or dramatically decrease their charitable contributions if they received zero income tax deductions for their donations.”
Hurrah for the
Bonny Boney Blue Flag!
The Sons of Confederate Veterans recently awarded a grant of $35,000 to Joshua A. Bush, an orthopedic researcher at the University of Virginia. Through its Brooks Fund, the fraternal organization provides fellowships for post-doctoral medical researchers who are the descendants of Confederate veterans. Dr. Bush will use the grant to study “Degradable and Functional Bone Graft Substitute for the Treatment of Large and Non-Union Fractures.” Advances in bone graft treatments are many a wonderful thing, and Philanthropy sincerely wishes both donor and doctor the very best in their efforts to relieve human suffering. Nevertheless, as one correspondent put it: Just how many grant applications did the Sons of Confederate Veterans sift through before finding one with “non-Union” in the title?
Anthony Kennedy: My Credit, My Money
Readers interested in debates over public versus private money will want to keep an eye on Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn. The Supreme Court is considering the constitutionality of a program that uses tax credits to fund private school scholarships, including scholarships at religious schools. During oral arguments in November, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs argued that the program is unconstitutional because the scholarship administrators “are, on the government’s behalf, distributing tax revenues” that would otherwise land in state coffers. “I have some difficulty that any money that the government doesn’t take from me is still the government’s money,” replied Justice Anthony Kennedy. “If you reach a certain age, you can get a card and go to certain restaurants and they give you 10 percent credit. I think it would be rather offensive for the cashier to say, ‘And be careful how you spend my money.’”
Robert B. Daugherty, RIP
If you have ever flown over the western plains and looked out the window on a clear day, you have likely seen the work of Robert Daugherty. It was he, more than anyone else, who created the distinct look of America’s western farmland: mile after mile of irrigated circles inside square fields. Born in 1922, Daugherty was raised in Omaha. After graduating from Carleton College in 1942, he joined the Marine Corps and served as a forward artillery observer in the Pacific during the Second World War. Upon discharge, Daugherty took $5,000 and bought a one-third interest in a machine shop that made grain elevators. In 1954, he saw his big chance. He bought the production rights for a center-point irrigation system from a farmer named Frank Zybach. “It seemed like the problems were monumental,” Daugherty once told the Omaha World-Herald. “It took us about 10 years to get this thing going.” Ultimately, his idea sank in and his product saturated the market. When he retired as chairman in 1996, his company was doing $550 million in annual sales. Today, 40 percent of American farms—75 percent in some western states—use center-point irrigation. In April, Daugherty pledged $50 million to the University of Nebraska to found the Global Water for Food Institute. May it prove to be a fitting legacy for Robert Daugherty, the man who brought water to a parched land and turned the desert into a garden.
Lovett C. Peters, RIP
Lovett C. Peters was born in April 1913 in Amherst, Massachusetts, to a family of teachers. At the age of 15, he marched into the dean’s office at Phillips Academy in Andover and asked for admission. “I had no money,” he would later say, “but a lot of brass.” He earned a scholarship and went on to Yale. At the 1935 prom he met—and, he later recalled, “stole from someone else”—a pretty Smith undergraduate named Ruth Stott. After graduating, Phi Beta Kappa, Peters took a job with Bankers Trust in New York City. He and Ruth married in 1938, after she finished her degree in history. During the Second World War, he was assigned to the Army Air Corps, where he worked to finance production of such legendary aircraft as the DC-3, the B-24 Liberator, and the B-17 Superfortress. He went on to Laclede Gas in St. Louis and Continental Oil (now ConocoPhillips) in Houston, where he was eventually made executive vice president. In 1966, he moved back to his native Massachusetts, first as president of the Cabot Corporation, later as principal of Peters Associates. When he turned 75, Peters retired from business and decided to start a think tank. (“If it doesn’t work out,” quipped Ruth, “you’re a young guy, and you’ll come up with something to do.”) In 1988, he founded the Pioneer Institute, dedicated to bringing free-market principles to public policy issues in Massachusetts. He played a key role in the development of charter schools in the commonwealth: in 2000, he created the Save a School Foundation, offering $1 million to school districts willing to convert their worst-performing schools into high-performing charter schools. Lovett and Ruth celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2008. Not long afterward, Ruth passed away. Philanthropy lost a dear friend on November 11, when Lovett went to join her. “I won the greatest lottery in life,” Peters was fond of saying. “I was born an American.”