The Philanthropy Roundtable is pleased to announce the selection of Paul Singer as the 2018 recipient of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. Honoring the ideals and principles that guided Mr. Simon’s giving, the Simon Prize personifies the ideals of personal responsibility, resourcefulness, volunteerism, scholarship, individual freedom, faith in God, and helping people to help themselves.
Born in 1944 to a Manhattan pharmacist and his wife, Singer grew up in New Jersey and studied classical piano as a child, later earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Rochester and a law degree from Harvard. After practicing real estate law for several years, Singer took a risk on the market in 1977 and launched Elliott Management Corporation, an investment hedge fund specializing in distressed debt acquisition. Forty years later, Elliott has offices in the U.S., London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo; a staff of 440; an average annual return of just over 13 percent; and $35 billion under management, making it one of the oldest and most successful hedge funds on Wall Street.
When Singer’s success afforded him the ability to become a serious philanthropist, he used his superior money management skills and his strict moral and ethical principles to focus his attention on public policy, including the rule of law and Constitutional issues that affect democracy and freedom; various Jewish causes, particularly as they relate to Israel’s economic stability and prosperity; and education and free speech on campuses.
According to Singer, “…the genius of America has always been to reserve as much freedom and responsibility as possible to that loose federation of private actors known as civil society.” With this aim in mind, Singer has pursued philanthropic investments that require patience and the ability to stay the course—choosing big political ideas with the potential for big returns.
One of Singer’s most significant philanthropic initiatives has been the creation of Start-Up Nation Central in Israel. Based on the premise that functional markets and an innovative economy have been the path to Israel’s prosperity, the project showcases Israel’s entrepreneurial dynamism and technological advances, and connects business leaders, governments, NGOs, and academic institutions around the world with Israeli problem-solvers who are tackling pressing technological challenges in areas such as medicine and healthcare.
A staunch supporter of charter schools, tutoring programs, and endowed academic grants to award excellence in teaching, Singer is committed to enhancing and protecting intellectual diversity and the marketplace of ideas on college campuses. Singer has been an important donor in developing Heterodox Academy, a coalition of professors and graduate students committed to increasing viewpoint diversity on college campuses.
A signatory of the Giving Pledge, a commitment by 175 of the world’s leading philanthropists to donate at least half of their wealth to charity to address society’s most pressing challenges, Singer also understands that philanthropy is not always financial. He continues to take active leadership roles and invest his personal time, energy, and expertise, to ensure that his commitments have tremendous impact.
When asked by David Rubenstein what he would like to see as the headline of what he has accomplished in his life, Singer replied simply, “He tried to make a difference….He was steady, reliable.”
Previous winners of the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership include Pitt and Barbara Hyde, Bruce and Suzie Kovner, David Weekley, the late Jon Huntsman Sr., the late Eli and Edythe Broad, Bernie Marcus, Charles Koch, Roger Hertog, Phil and Nancy Anschutz, Rich and the late Helen DeVos, Dr. Ben Carson, the late Sir John Templeton, and the late John Walton. The prize includes a $200,000 award which will be donated to a charity of Singer’s choice.
Singer will be celebrated on October 25 during a special luncheon in Palm Beach, Florida at The Philanthropy Roundtable’s 2018 Annual Meeting.