Harvard University announced last week that Kenneth Griffin, a 1989 graduate, is giving $150 million primarily to support financial aid for its undergraduates. This is part of a $6.5 billion capital campaign started in 2013 to make a Harvard education affordable for all entering students, but especially those from low and middle income families. An accepted student with family income less than $65,000 pays nothing in tuition.
Griffin is now a wildly successful investment CEO, founder of Citadel hedge fund based in Chicago managing over $17 billion of investment capital. But in 1987, he started his fund in his dorm room with a fax machine, a PC, a telephone and $265,000 of capital to grow. Part of that came from his grandmother. In 1989, he graduated with his Economics degree and founded Citadel in 1990, raising $1 million early on.
Did he just now get religion? Is Griffin trying to soothe his conscience for making so many people better off and himself rich in the process? Not hardly. In 1999 the year of his tenth class reunion, he established a scholarship honoring his grandfather, Wayne R. Gratz. Now he makes this gift at his 25th year reunion. What will he be able to do in the future?
I am focusing on this today because we are in an era when many are castigated for being successful. Does every billionaire give away large sums? Obviously not. But the ability to give depends upon our individual efforts to make our own living, save for our own future needs, and be generous to our chosen causes. Creating value to earn more money to donate is just one good reason why I have no plan to ever retire unless I become too ill to work.
As of last December, there were 122 signers (3 deceased) of the Giving Pledge in the world. Created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, each member pledges to give at least half of his or her wealth to charities of his choice. One of the newest, Dato’ Sri DR Tahir of Indonesia, is joint venturing with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with $100 million focused upon eradicating polio first, then TB, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.
There are almost 1.2 million Rotarians in the world who share this goal to End Polio Now. For the next three years (the first ends June 30), the Gates Foundation will match each Rotary dollar at a 2 to 1 ratio up to $35 million. Although it takes cooperation, no government is going to make sure this happens.
Since there are millions more people like you and me than billionaires, we are the ones who have to give our tens, hundreds and thousands to make this a better world. Let’s keep at it.
(Marcella Bombardieri, www.boston.com/metrodesk/2014/02/19. Citadel information, www.citadel.com. Giving Pledge, www.forbes.com/sites/luisakroll/2013/12/10/this-holiday-season-seven-billionaires-join-expanding-giving-pledge-club/. This is general information for the public and not intended as specific advice for anyone.)