A One-B RFP?
William Conway is crowd-sourcing his philanthropy. The co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, recently spoke with Robert McCartney of the Washington Post. During their conversation, the Forbes 400 billionaire described his plan to solicit proposals for his charitable giving. Conway is open to suggestions for how best to give away the $1 billion—about half of his net worth—he plans to leave to charity during his lifetime. “So much of what I do now is stopgap,” Conway told McCartney. “Somebody’s hungry; we give money to the food bank.” (Conway has given $6 million to the Capital Area Food Bank since November 2010.) “It would be far better if we had a more permanent solution,” he said, adding a special interest in “finding a way to help people have a good-paying job.” But, wonders Conway, how exactly can philanthropy help create jobs? He invited readers of McCartney’s column to offer suggestions, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Spring 2011 issue of Philanthropy offered some suggestions of our own, with articles on vocational education, trade schools, entrepreneurship, and legal reform.
Ex Libris Loeb
Philanthropy wishes a happy 100th birthday to the Loeb Classical Library. Few books are so instantly recognizable. Uniformly sized to “fit in a gentleman’s pocket,” each of the 518 hardbound volumes bears a minimalist cover, red for works in Latin or green for those in Greek. Inside, the familiar layout: every left-hand page runs the original text, with a near-literal English translation running on the right-hand page. In honor of the series’ centennial, we should note its origins as a philanthropic project. James Loeb was a son of Abraham Loeb, a co-founder of Kuhn, Loeb & Co., one of the nation’s earliest and most important investment banks. James worked for the family business before serious illness forced his early retirement. After 1902, he dedicated himself to a life of quiet scholarship and philanthropy. James was a lead funder of what would eventually become Juilliard, the first endowed musical academy to offer instruction at a nominal fee; he also sponsored psychiatric research, charitable hospitals, and convalescent homes. Nevertheless, his name is indelibly tied to the Loeb Classical Library, the translation, production, and publication of which he financed himself. By the time of his death in 1933, the series ran to nearly 300 volumes. In his will, Loeb left $300,000 to Harvard to complete the series, and directed that any profits from the library should be put toward graduate-level scholarships in the classics, “without distinction as to sex, race, nationality, color, or creed” of the applicant. To this day, the funds provide grants up to $35,000 for scholarship in the field. In all, it is another quiet achievement for private philanthropy, little noticed, yet preserving the culture and enriching our lives.
Physician, Heal Thyself
“He goes by Mark,” says Carolyn Bucksbaum, “not ‘Doctor.’” She and her husband, Matthew, have been patients of Dr. Mark Siegler since they moved to Chicago a little more than a decade ago. Impressed by Dr. Siegler’s intense personal interest in his patients, the Bucksbaums announced in September their decision to donate $42 million to the University of Chicago Medical Center, in order to launch the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence. Its mission: to train medical school students how to engage with patients, to talk with them rather than at them. In explaining the goals of their gift to a reporter from the New York Times, the Bucksbaums pointed to “studies that indicate a good rapport between doctors and patients strongly correlates with positive health outcomes.” Dr. Siegler, a world-renowned medical ethicist, will head the institute. “To care for a patient,” he told the Times, “you have to care about a patient.”
The sun-dappled plains of the Columbia River basin are home to some of the world’s most bountiful orchards; the rich volcanic soil has long helped make Washington state the nation’s second-largest producer of fruit. But, as every farmer knows, there is always room to grow. To that end, Washington’s apple and pear producers are giving Washington State University (WSU) $27 million over the next eight years—the biggest gift in WSU’s history—to support tree fruit research. To pay for the gift, the state’s growers voluntarily agreed to contribute $1 per ton of fruit produced. The gift will endow six chairs to help attract top fruit researchers to WSU, bring national knowledge and best practices to Washington’s growers, and support dedicated research orchards. America’s fruit industries depend on research conducted at universities and other large research organizations. Research institutions, whether supported privately or publicly, are responsible for cultivating new, disease-resistant strains of plants, which have helped to make America’s agriculture sector 150 percent more productive than it was just a half-century ago.
“I Have a Good Idea”
Douglas Edwards—Google’s first brand manager, employee number 59—recently published a memoir about his six years with the company. In one passage, he describes Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s first forays into corporate philanthropy. “I have a good idea,” Brin is reported to have said in 1999. “Why don’t we take the marketing budget and use it to inoculate Chechen refugees against cholera? It will help our brand awareness, and we’ll get more new people to use Google.” Edwards was skeptical, and the idea died. (So too did a follow-up idea: “What if we gave out free Google-branded condoms to high school students?”) Google’s corporate philanthropy has matured with the company; through Google.org it uses Google’s technology and expertise to address global problems. It also supports STEM studies, sponsors the National Geographic Bee, and makes its resources available as in-kind gifts to nonprofits. On these pages, Edwards depicts the meeting of entrepreneurial vitality and philanthropic imagination. “It had all the classic elements of a Sergey solution,” writes Edwards, “a wildly unconventional approach to a common problem, technology harnessed to improve the human condition, an international scope.”
Robert W. Galvin, RIP
Bob Galvin was a man in motion. Born in 1922, Galvin followed his father into the family business: Motorola, then a manufacturer of two-way and automotive radios. He worked his way up the ranks and became CEO of Motorola after his father’s death in 1959. Under his leadership, Motorola became one of the world’s leading telecommunications manufacturers. In 1973, he released the first hand-held mobile telephone—the seemingly miraculous brick-sized phone that paved the way for today’s ubiquitous mobile devices. When Galvin retired in 1990, annual sales topped $10.8 billion. Throughout his life, Galvin gave generously to numerous educational, humanitarian, scientific, and cultural causes in his hometown of Chicago. He remained, however, dedicated to motion and progress—especially as they relate to infrastructure, which be believed was an essential pre-condition for prosperity. He funded the efforts of think tanks (such as the Reason Foundation) to promote mobility and reduce traffic congestion. He donated tens of millions of dollars to the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he created the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation to promote transition to the “smart grid.” Galvin passed away in mid-October. The man in motion is now at rest.
Steve Jobs, RIP
Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, even Leonardo da Vinci: obituary writers have strained to find the appropriate historical analogy for Steve Jobs. Since his death on October 5, Jobs has been celebrated as a technological visionary and an artistic genius. Amid the encomia, however, there have been discordant notes. “The lack of public philanthropy by Mr. Jobs,” wrote Andrew Ross Sorkin in a recent New York Times Dealbook column, has been “long whispered about, but rarely said aloud.” Jobs, noted Sorkin, never signed the Giving Pledge, and there is no hospital wing or college dorm that bears his name. (Sorkin allows that he may have given anonymously.) Jobs established a private foundation in 1986, but lost interest and shut it down a year later. In 1997, he closed Apple’s corporate foundation as a cost-saving measure, and never re-opened it. All true, but a few points seem in order. First, corporate philanthropy should serve a legitimate business purpose; if Jobs did not believe that Apple’s corporate giving was maximizing shareholder value, then it was his fiduciary duty to discontinue it. Second, it is perhaps worth noting Jobs’ 1985 interview with Playboy, in which he claimed that philanthropy is “a part of my life that I like to keep private.” It is quite plausible that he engaged in anonymous giving. Third, his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, has long been active with some of the nation’s most innovative K–12 education reform nonprofits, including Teach For America, EdVoice, and the NewSchools Venture Fund. In fact, in 1997, she co-founded College Track, a nonprofit organization in East Palo Alto, California, with a mission of improving high school graduation, college enrollment, and college graduation rates for students of color and from low-income families. (Please see “The Old College Try,” Philanthropy, Spring 2010.) Quite apart from Sorkin’s specific charges, however, his complaint reveals a peculiar bias. Whether or not he gave money to charity, Jobs had already massively enriched the world, giving it better computers, better phones, better ways to buy music. It may not have been philanthropy, but it was a great contribution to human well-being—and one for which a measure of gratitude is owed.
David H. Padden, RIP
“The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. “We ought, for so dear a state, to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity.” David Padden agreed with the proposition and dedicated his life to the principle. Born in 1927, the lifelong Chicagoan worked in heavy construction and founded several successful financial services firms. As his business flourished, Padden used his wealth to advance the nascent libertarian movement. Cato president Ed Crane frequently referred to him as the “conscience of the Cato Institute,” noting his 34 years of service on the board. In 1984, Padden founded the Heartland Institute in Chicago, charging it with discovering, developing, and promoting free market solutions to social and economic problems. Over the years, Padden worked closely with the Acton Institute, the Bionomics Institute, the Center for Libertarian Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, and the Foundation for Economic Education, as well as St. Xavier College and the Epilepsy Foundation. Husband of 61 years, father of seven, grandfather of 15, and great-grandfather of two, he passed away in early October. “At his core,” his son Michael told the Chicago Tribune, “he was a lover of freedom.”