Given his roaring success in business and private equity it was no surprise when Stephen Adams offered a large financial contribution to Yale University. What did come as a surprise was the particular object of his support: the Yale School of Music. For most of his life, Adams possessed no special musical ability and very little interest in the field. But at the age of 55 he began playing piano, quite seriously, and quickly developed a love of the classical repertoire. On the occasion of his 40-year reunion, Adams decided to contribute $10 million to his alma mater’s music program. And he wasn’t done. As his knowledge of and passion for music continued to growth, so did his giving. In 2005 he gave an additional $100 million—which allowed the School of Music to cover the entire tuition cost of all of its students thenceforth.
In a field that matches extraordinary professional demands with very modest financial rewards, tuition-free music training was a breakthrough. The gift was initially given anonymously. “My wife and I are Christians and the Bible speaks of giving in secret,” Adams said later, describing himself as devout. His benefaction only became known in 2008 when he revealed it offhandedly in an interview in hope of encouraging fellow members of the class of ’59 to give generously for their 50-year reunion. The Adams Family Foundation has also made many other grants to support music education across the country, including substantial gifts to Westmont College.
- Yale Daily News coverage, yaledailynews.com/blog/2009/02/18/the-100-million-couple