Carnegie Mellon University Is a World Leader in Cross-Disciplinary Exploration at the Intersection of Technology and Humanity
“My heart is in the work.”
From a mural at the school to souvenirs at the campus bookstore, you will see that phrase everywhere at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Uttered by Andrew Carnegie over 100 years ago, the words are rooted in the very ethos of the school to this day.
Andrew Carnegie had little formal education, but he believed deeply in the power of books and learning. During his formative years, he spent many evenings absorbed in the 1,500-volume library of a local businessman, Colonel James Anderson, who opened his personal collection of books to local working boys. Once he had accumulated his fortune, Andrew Carnegie devoted himself to giving away virtually all of his wealth during his lifetime, creating a wide range of philanthropic, cultural, and educational institutions, including the founding of 2,509 libraries, paving the way for future generations to have access not only to books, but to knowledge, understanding, and opportunity.
“An immigrant himself, he believed in the role of education as a great equalizer and was committed to ensuring that his philanthropy would be focused on creating ‘ladders on which the aspiring can rise,’” said Carnegie Mellon University president Farnam Jahanian during a recent event commemorating Andrew Carnegie. “He set his sights on transforming education – not just here in Pittsburgh, but across the nation.”
The university’s story started in 1900 with a $1 million donation from Andrew Carnegie. The idea was first to create a technical institute where Pittsburgh’s working class could learn practical skills, trades, and crafts. The Carnegie Technical Schools soon began offering bachelor’s degrees. In 1967 “Carnegie Tech” merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (an independent research corporation founded in the 1930s by the prominent Pittsburgh family of financiers and philanthropists) — and with this, Carnegie Mellon University was officially established.
Today, Carnegie Mellon University has 14,000 students enrolled in more than 26 degree programs spread across 14 countries. The university’s vision is to have a transformative impact on society through continual innovations in education, research, creativity, and entrepreneurship.
The impressive roll call of the university’s alumni and faculty confirms that this vision is not merely aspirational. There are the winners of — for starters — 116 Emmy Awards, 44 Tony Awards, 20 Nobel Prizes, and 10 Academy Awards. The university’s engineers have created robots that can walk on water. One of its alumni generated the idea behind the hashtag symbol on Twitter. Another became known as the “Father of Java” for inventing the computer programming language. The roster of famous alumni includes names like Mel Bochner, Albert Brooks, Ted Danson, Holly Hunter, George Romero, and Andy Warhol.
As an institution, Carnegie Mellon University can boast of many firsts. Its reputation in the fine and performing arts dates to 1906 with the founding of the School of Applied Design, one of the first comprehensive arts teaching institutes in the United States, growing quickly into a world-ranked leader in architecture, art, design, drama, and music. Carnegie Mellon established the nation’s first robotics institute in 1979, and in the 1980s it became the first university with a wired campus. The first green dormitory in the U.S. opened at CMU in 2003.
The university today enjoys international recognition, ranking top in the country in areas like computer science and information and technology management. A pioneer in many fields, Carnegie Mellon University emulates its founder’s commitment to progress and innovation.
“We are reshaping the businesses of today and creating new industries of tomorrow with groundbreaking research in artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, neuroscience, robotics, and cyber-security, among many others,” said Jahanian. “The university has emerged as a world leader in cross-disciplinary exploration at the intersection of technology and humanity, catalyzing innovation in both education and research to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges.”
Andrew Carnegie would undoubtedly be proud of the university’s many distinctions, its commitment to social impact, and its ambitious plans for the future. Carnegie Mellon University not only sustains its founder’s vision — it is amplifying it. The achievements — of its students, faculty, and alumni — demonstrate the power of education, just as Andrew Carnegie intended.
Andrew Carnegie’s Library and Museums Are Forging the Future in the Steel City
“I feel lucky that I came to such a friendly city,” says Dutian Zeng, a former after-school teacher from China and a newcomer to Pittsburgh. “I feel even luckier that, because of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I’m not a stranger and I’m no longer lonely.”
At the Library, Zeng tapped into her passion for working with children. She partnered with staff to create a list of 100 famous American and Chinese picture books for the Library to exchange with a school in her old hometown of Wuhan in Central China. Thanks to the joy of reading, children thousands of miles apart were brought together.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is one of more than 2,500 libraries founded by Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie is known for many things: he was a visionary entrepreneur, a business leader, and an innovative philanthropist. Yet he is perhaps most celebrated for investing more than $55 million in libraries, earning him recognition as the “patron saint of libraries.”
“Here at the main library, right above the doors, it says Free to the People — and that really is our guiding principle,” says Molly Bennett, Pittsburgh Library’s director of communications and creative services. “We are open to everyone and our mission is to engage our whole community in literacy and learning.”
Since its inception in 1895, the Library has moved with the times and continues to look to the future. In addition to providing many electronic books, laptops for loan, and hotspots to help bridge the digital divide, Carnegie Library will soon offer coding lessons and, in response to Pittsburgh’s increasingly diverse population, will make more works available in translation in an even wider range of languages.
Andrew Carnegie once said, “A library outranks any other thing a community can do to benefit its people,” and nearly a century after his death, Zeng and many others continue to enjoy an institution he cherished so deeply.
Another institution beloved by residents and visitors alike is Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, comprised of Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum.
“I think Andrew Carnegie would be particularly proud of what his museums have become: a family of four distinctive, dynamic museums that, collectively, reach nearly 1.5 million people a year, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren,” observes Carnegie Museums’ board member Bill Hunt.
Whether it’s Dinosaurs in Their Time, the natural history museum’s impressive core exhibition, or the Science Center’s popular sports and science-related exhibits, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh strives to bring the best in art, science, and history to the Steel City, just as their original benefactor intended.
“His vision is entrenched in our vision now,” says Betsy Momich, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh’s director of corporate communications. “We live and breathe it every day.”
A century after Andrew Carnegie’s passing, the museums are staying true to his mission while adapting to modern times. The dinosaur exhibition is now nearly three times the size of the original, The Andy Warhol Museum is North America’s most comprehensive single-artist museum, and the Science Center will soon open a four-story pavilion featuring everything from large-scale exhibitions to a digital giant-screen theater.
“Some have wondered what our founding father would have thought of bringing a Science Center and The Andy Warhol Museum into the Carnegie Museums fold in the 1900s. I feel certain he wouldn’t have just liked the idea; he would have demanded it!” says Hunt.
None of us know what the next century will bring. What we do know is that Andrew Carnegie’s library and museums will continue to embrace recent arrivals, such as Dutian Zheng, bringing literacy, learning, and opportunity to the Pittsburgh community.
Pittsburgh shaped Andrew Carnegie as a young man. In return, Carnegie endowed the city with a bounty of museums, libraries, and other institutions. These stand as testament to his philanthropic vision of doing “real and permanent good in this world,” enriching the City of Pittsburgh while demonstrating that Carnegie’s legacy remains vital and flourishing into the 21st century. The four Pittsburgh-based Carnegie institutions — the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University — came together recently in the Steel City to mark a special milestone in the history of civilian acts of heroism. Such acts carried a profound resonance for Andrew Carnegie, who established the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in 1904 to honor those “heroes of civilization,” ordinary men and women who risk or sometimes even lose their own lives attempting to save the life of another.
On June 12, at the Allegheny HYP Club in Downtown Pittsburgh, a special luncheon was held honoring Vickie Tillman and Jimmy Rhodes, respectively the 10,000th and 10,001st Carnegie Hero. The featured guest speaker was Abigail Marsh, distinguished professor of psychology at Georgetown University and author of The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between, described by the Wall Street Journal as a “compelling scientific detective story.” Marsh is working to better understand why individuals like the Carnegie Heroes go to such extraordinary lengths to help others, why some individuals exhibit higher levels of altruism. Through her work with the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and the recipients of the Carnegie Medal, as well as with other exceptional individuals, Marsh is hoping to normalize courageous behavior, ultimately building a world in which more of us will be empowered to behave altruistically.
A Multifaceted Legacy
Later that evening, representatives of the Carnegie institutions convened at the Carnegie Music Hall for a gala event, helmed by NPR host Scott Simon. After acknowledging Tillman and Rhodes for their acts of bravery, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh president Bill Hunt paid special tribute to Andrew Carnegie’s commitment to making art and culture accessible to the public. “The gift of Carnegie Museums is just one of countless measures Andrew Carnegie took to ensure that education and culture would be accessible to the many, not just the few,” he said.
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission chairman Mark Laskow invoked Carnegie’s ideas about civilian heroism — ideas that remain vital nearly 100 years after the philanthropist’s death. For Laskow, the Hero Fund highlights some of the most personal and intimate decisions that an individual can make, exemplified by Carnegie Heroes past and present. “The values of heroism and altruism that shine through these acts are important threads in the fabric of our culture,” said Laskow. “The Hero Fund is here to add their stories to our national discussion about who we really are.”
Farnam Jahanian, president of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), cited Carnegie’s bold vision, commitment to inclusion, and rational approach to solving some of the world’s most vexing problems as an enduring source of inspiration for Carnegie Mellon University and its students. The founder, he said, was “unapologetically ahead of his time, committed to seizing opportunities and being resilient in the face of a rapidly expanding world.”
Mary Frances Cooper, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh president and director, honored Carnegie’s lifelong pursuit of knowledge. While young Carnegie received little formal education, he was a voracious reader from an early age and remained so throughout his life. His reverence for books shaped his belief that there was no better investment for a community than that of a free public library. “Carnegie’s particular brand of philanthropy reflects the fundamental need in people, and our individual and collective desire, to do the right thing,” Cooper said of Carnegie’s faith in the individual’s capacity to learn and evolve.
The Heroes Roll of Honor
Eric P. Zahren, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s president and secretary, underscored the enduring power of the individual to effect change in the world. In his lead-up to the unveiling of the Carnegie Heroes Roll of Honor, Zahren said: “Perhaps Carnegie, above all, hoped that we would see the power of each one, imperfect as we are, to make a difference, to change the world. For one moment and for all time. To see, to recognize, and to embrace the undeniable power of one.” Throughout the 114 years since the Carnegie Hero Commission Fund was established, more than 10,000 Carnegie Medals have indeed been awarded and many millions have been disbursed in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits, and continuing assistance. But most importantly, the Fund keeps the heroes’ stories alive, ensuring that their acts of personal bravery will ripple across generations.
Following the unveiling, Scott Simon introduced Academy Award-nominated actor and Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton. The superhero of the Silver Screen honored the everyday heroes who walk among us. “The common denominator of heroism is courage,” said Keaton, adding that “courage shows up all the time in this world and often without any fanfare.”
The next Forging the Future event will honor Andrew Carnegie’s legacy as a peacemaker and highlight the Carnegie institutions that continue to work toward world peace. The Carnegie Peacebuilding Conversations will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague from September 24 to 26. The event will bring together experts from Carnegie institutions and elsewhere for a series of panel discussions on the most pressing issues of the day, including ethics in peacebuilding, health and peace, artificial intelligence, security of natural resources, and financing peace.
A century after his death, Andrew Carnegie remains an integral part of Pittsburgh. This town is where he got his first job, built his professional career, and carried out much of his extraordinary philanthropic vision. In the Steel City, Carnegie is a household name. It is a place where locals pronounce “Carnegie” as the Scots do.
Andrew Carnegie’s family settled in a working-class Pittsburgh suburb after journeying from Scotland to New York City, then taking a three-week trip by steamboat to Pennsylvania. It was here that Carnegie started work as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill at age 13 before building a career in railroads, steel, and bridges to eventually become one of his era’s most successful businessmen.
Carnegie used his wealth and ideas to establish more than 20 institutions in North America and Europe, translating his passion for art, culture, and education into reality for so many others. Pittsburgh now calls itself home to more Carnegie institutions than any other city.
Carnegie’s wealth was important, but his ideas — his philosophy of giving — were even more critical, so powerful that more than a century later they continue to attract leading professionals and volunteers alike. Are the ideas on which he built his organizations and the goals he set for them still relevant today?
Look just at Pittsburgh. Today, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission is preparing to celebrate its 10,000th hero. Carnegie Mellon tops university rankings in critical areas such as computer science and artificial intelligence. Carnegie Museum of Art was the first in the United States to place a strong focus on contemporary art. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh welcomes nearly three million visitors each year, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History contains one of the world’s greatest archives of biodiversity and the history of life.
In the lead-up to the centennial year of his passing in 1919, Carnegie institutions around the world are hosting a series of events titled Forging the Future, honoring Andrew Carnegie’s commitment “to do real and permanent good in this world,” while also working to keep his legacy alive and vital into the next century.
The next Forging the Future event, “The Power of One: A Tribute to the Power of the Individual,” will take place on June 12 and be hosted by four Pittsburgh institutions: the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. Celebrating the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s 10,000th hero, the event will recognize civilians who have risked — and sometimes actually lost — their lives trying to save the lives of others. Even before he signed the deed establishing the commission in 1905, Carnegie had long felt strongly about acknowledging the heroism of individuals.
“He said we live in a heroic age and indeed, we still do,” says Carnegie Hero Fund Commission president Eric P. Zahren. “We’re still seeing people risk their lives on a consistent basis and we don’t expect that to change. Even now, in our disconnected, technology-driven world reportedly void of human compassion, as it is too often presented, heroes abound.”
Over the last 114 years, acts of heroic bravery have changed. It’s unlikely, for example, that modern heroism will involve a runaway horse buggy — but Andrew Carnegie’s commitment to honoring brave civilians endures. The Hero Fund recognizes acts of courage as varied as a cafeteria clerk who stopped her car to help a wounded police officer to a business owner who saved a woman falling from a bridge. By awarding medals and financial rewards — which may entail paying the educational costs for the hero’s children — the impact of acts of personal bravery can ripple across generations.
Like many of his philanthropic endeavors, the commission exemplifies that celebrating the power of individuals, appreciating art, and fostering scientific exploration remain as relevant today as in the 19th century.
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, which consists of Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum, is a partner for the “Power of One” event and an institution built around the local Pittsburgh community.
“Andrew Carnegie founded the museums to bring the world to Pittsburgh,” says Bill Hunt, chair of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh Board of Trustees. “At that time, people didn’t travel outside their home base, people did not have disposable income, and their educations were much more restricted, if they had education at all. He wanted to change that, to open up the world to the people in the city and give back to the people of Pittsburgh.”
As an immigrant, Carnegie believed education was a great equalizer and was committed to ensuring that his philanthropy would create “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” Today, the museums bring more than 150 special exhibitions, films and theatre shows to the city each year. The history museum examines the impact of humanity on nature and the environment, while the Carnegie Science Center’s STEM program works to build enthusiasm and interest so that Pittsburgh’s children might grow up to consider careers in specialized fields.
As another step on the ladder on which the aspiring can rise, Andrew Carnegie — the “Patron Saint of Libraries” — knew libraries could offer cultural resources for newcomers to America. Growing up in Pittsburgh, he worked long hours and had no access to formal education, but a local merchant lent him books, which solidified his belief in the immense potential of libraries.
In recent years, Pittsburgh, like many American cities, has seen an increase in immigrants, like the Carnegie family, welcoming more than 22,000 new residents from 2010 to 2016. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh offers English classes, supporting those new to the city, as well as providing materials in other languages and holding naturalization ceremonies. Over the years the library’s 19 locations have grown along with the city, and consistently served its residents’ needs.
“Our story is really interwoven into the Pittsburgh story,” says Mary Frances Cooper, Library president and director. “The library has been here for every challenge and opportunity that Pittsburgh has faced.”
When Carnegie said, “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out,” he could not imagine that almost 100 years after his death he would remain a vital part of the Steel City. Andrew Carnegie would not have been the same man without Pittsburgh and, without him, Pittsburgh would not be the city it is today.
Toward the end of Andrew Carnegie’s life, achieving world peace became the philanthropist’s primary occupation. Civilized nations had abandoned practices of slavery and dueling; the telephone, trains, and steamships were globalizing communications; and the Great Powers had been at peace since the 1871 Franco-Prussian War — surely, the abolition of war would follow.
Until his death in 1919 (two months after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles), Carnegie worked tirelessly to “hasten the abolition of international war.” For Carnegie, war was “the foulest stain that remains to disgrace humanity, since slavery was abolished.”
Given that the world today is still very much mired in war and conflict, it is fitting that the family of Carnegie institutions opened the Forging the Future series with an event that draws upon the lessons of the past century as we look — it is hoped — to forge a more peaceful future.
On April 26 the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and Carnegie Corporation of New York hosted a conversation in New York City with author and Duke University professor Bruce W. Jentleson.
Beyond academia, Jentleson has also helped shape U.S. foreign policy in a range of different positions at the State Department and has worked with various presidential administrations. From coordinating communications between former PLO leader Yasser Arafat and then-Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s to serving on the National Security Advisor Steering Committee of the 2012 Obama presidential campaign, Jentleson has been involved in some of the most critical diplomatic and security negotiations of the past two decades.
In a discussion centering around his recently released book, The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship (W. W. Norton), Jentleson posed the fundamental question of whether leaders shape history — or vice versa. For Jentleson, individuals make the critical difference, be they political mandarins or ordinary citizens. He made a compelling case for the importance of vision, courage, and moral authority in facilitating the breakthroughs that can bring about real and lasting peace.
In what proved to be the highlight of the talk, Jentleson described a key interaction between then-U.S. national security advisor Henry Kissinger and former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai around the time of the U.S.-China rapprochement of 1972. When Kissinger entered the first — very secret — meeting (dubbed “Operation Marco Polo”), he extended a handshake to Zhou. Kissinger knew that, nearly 20 years earlier, then-secretary of state John Foster Dulles chose to shake hands with former Soviet foreign minister Molotov, but he refused to take the hand of Zhou. Jentleson credits Kissinger for understanding the significance of a handshake in this context, and thereby possibly changing the course of history.
Jentleson recounted several similar moments in 20th-century history when peace was established thanks to the — as one can see in hindsight — visionary actions of individuals.
Today, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Peace continues to celebrate Andrew Carnegie’s commitment to greater international understanding, justice, and peace by using its convening power to bring together leaders from around the world to share ideas, reflect on experiences, and engage in public conversations. These dialogues are a vital stepping stone toward achieving “real and permanent good in this world” — and perhaps even toward Andrew Carnegie’s dream of world peace.
Andrew Carnegie’s Legacy, 100 Years Later and into the Next Century
It is not often that we have an opportunity to think in terms of 100 years. It’s a span well suited to remind us that while our lives are time-bound, our connections endure. As much as things change, they remain the same.
In the early hours of August 11, 1919, Andrew Carnegie passed away peacefully at his Shadowbrook estate in Lenox, Massachusetts, with his wife, Louise, at his side.
In the words of Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian, “The legacy of Andrew Carnegie celebrates the power of the individual, enabled and empowered to live freely and to think independently, as well as the power of an educated citizenry and a strong democracy. In this way, democracy, education, knowledge, freedom, and international peace are necessary ingredients to a healthy society.”
It is the Carnegie family of institutions, founded and inspired by Andrew Carnegie, to which we now turn — almost one hundred years on — to lead the path forward in celebration of his legacy. Over the course of the next year, these institutions will honor his life by addressing those issues Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace, the advancement of knowledge and understanding, and the strength of our democracy.
The Carnegie family of institutions — in New York City, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Europe — is sponsoring events over the next 18 months to answer key questions and commemorate Andrew Carnegie’s lasting achievements in peace, education, the arts, science, culture, and philanthropy.
The title of the event series, Forging the Future, encapsulates the most difficult and urgent challenges we face, and will culminate with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy awards ceremony in New York City in October 2019.
The first event in the series took place just last month in New York City as Carnegie Corporation of New York and Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs hosted a lecture by Bruce W. Jentleson, a leading American foreign policy scholar, on his new book, The Peacemakers: Leadership Lessons from Twentieth-Century Statesmanship.
The Peacemakers covers a broad range of historical examples of leadership and peacebuilding, from Yitzhak Rabin’s efforts for Arab-Israeli peace to Dag Hammarskjöld’s effectiveness as Secretary-General of the United Nations and Mahatma Gandhi’s pioneering use of nonviolence as a political tool.
At a time in the world when peace seems elusive and conflict endemic, The Peacemakers makes a forceful and inspiring case for the continued relevance of statesmanship and diplomacy, providing practical guidance to 21st-century leaders seeking lessons from some of history’s most impactful negotiators, activists, and trailblazers.
The second Forging the Future event will be led by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and takes place on June 12 in Pittsburgh. Celebrating the actions of those who risk their lives while saving or attempting to save the lives of others, the Commission will honor its 10,000th hero at The Power of One: A Tribute to the Power of the Individual, an event cosponsored by Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.
Finally, this coming fall the Carnegie Foundation/Peace Palace will host Carnegie Peace-Building Conversations at the Peace Palace in The Hague (September 24–26). The Peace Palace, which houses the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the International Court of Justice, was built largely thanks to a substantial donation from Andrew Carnegie. The event will highlight Carnegie’s legacy as a peacemaker through a series of panel discussions on a number of topics, including ethics in peacebuilding, health and peace, artificial intelligence, security of natural resources, and financing peace.
After more than 100 years of doing real and permanent good in the world, the Andrew Carnegie family of institutions looks forward to the next century and considers how we must forge the future to sustain our founder’s vision in a new world.
Philanthropy is a relatively young field in terms of innovation (#GivingTuesday, microgiving), but it can trace it roots to ancient traditions. Social entrepreneurship has helped remake the philanthropic landscape in recent years, but many still cite the great religious texts as their reason for giving. Joan and Irwin Jacobs touch upon both the old and the new, embracing the best of philanthropy past and present, and applying themselves with intelligence and passion to the task. They are an extraordinary couple.
Joan and Irwin were both raised in Jewish homes in the Northeast — homes steeped in the tradition of giving, not only as a family matter, but also as a religious duty. The similarity of their backgrounds has helped inform their decision-making as philanthropists. Speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune, Joan said, “Our families were philanthropic, but on a very different level. They gave to the local synagogue, but not in any major way. We both came from very humble homes. We’re very fortunate to be able to do what we’re doing now.”
Early on, each was aware of the Jewish obligation of tzedakah, with memories of placing small coins in a box (called a pushke). Monies collected would go to the synagogue or to another worthy cause. As the Jacobses found greater and greater professional and financial success, the coins and the pushke definitely — so to speak — expanded, and they would eventually sign The Giving Pledge, joining the commitment made by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their wills. While their motivations may have been time-honored, the efforts and causes to which Joan and Irwin Jacobs are inspired to contribute are resolutely modern and forward-looking.
Irwin made his fortune through the technology company Qualcomm, while Joan found success as a dietician. The fields are quite different, but the couple are united in crediting their achievements to the educational opportunities they were afforded — and naturally enough, education became a major part of their giving. Numerous universities have been recipients of their philanthropy, most notably Cornell University: the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, a cornerstone of Cornell Tech’s new campus on New York City’s Roosevelt Island, will create “pioneering leaders and technologies for the digital age.” Clearly, for the Jacobses education and science are top priorities, and they have also given hundreds of millions of dollars to the likes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California San Diego, and the Salk Institute (where Irwin served as chairman of the board for a decade).
Moving beyond education and science, the couple has made a name for themselves in San Diego by providing unwavering support for such worthwhile endeavors as the La Jolla Playhouse, the central library, and the San Diego Symphony — this last the beneficiary of a lifesaving infusion of funds. The couple stays involved with the arts locally, science nationally, and education globally — and the aim is to inspire others to follow suit. In their giving, Joan and Irwin Jacobs have continued to live by the Jewish concept of tzedakah, the responsibility to give aid, assistance, and money to worthwhile causes, which they first absorbed as children. The little coin box may have grown immensely, and helped build a building or two or three — or more. But the message remains the same: if you can give a portion of your personal substance to the common good, it is your responsibility to do so. In fact, Judaism teaches that the donors benefit even more than the beneficiaries from tzedakah. An ancient idea, perhaps, but today it seems more relevant than ever.
To quote Fred Kavli, philanthropy “sort of gives you a purpose in life.” But those words of wisdom didn’t come from a man who was aimlessly searching for something to do. Kavli made a fortune through his technology company, Kavlico Corporation, as well as through savvy real estate investments. Significantly, the physicist always kept pure science as a key part of his life, and when he sold his company in 2000 he was able to unite his scientific and philanthropic passions. In his business ventures, Kavli used his laser-sharp focus to get the very best results, and he went on to craft a unique niche for himself within the broader world of philanthropy.
After earning a degree in applied physics at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, Kavli moved to the United States hoping to make use of his engineering skills. He found success creating sophisticated sensors that were put to wide use — in engines, washing machines, and even on space shuttles. The incredibly precise nature of his technological and business achievements both contrast with and mirror his later work in philanthropy. While Kavli retained the intense focus that had served him well in business, as a philanthropist he adjusted his expectations. Well aware of how scientific discoveries happen, he proved to be the perfect donor to support cutting-edge work.
While many philanthropists direct their wealth to a variety of causes, Kavli focused almost exclusively on science. There were exceptions: he was integral to a theater built in Thousand Oaks, California, and he gave to local institutions, including Moorpark College, the Boy Scouts, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. But those are small fry compared to the leviathan-sized science projects he created and supported. Starting in 2008, Kavli began funding research institutes that specialized in astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience, and theoretical physics. Currently there are 17 such institutes at some of the most esteemed universities in the world, including Caltech, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Tokyo, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. This is particularly noteworthy because there are no strings attached to these funds — they were put into place without dictating what needed to be discovered or what problems were to be solved. Instead, Kavli provided funds for research that of its very nature doesn’t necessarily have an eventual end in sight.
Some of the researchers at Kavli Institutes have gone on to win major prizes, including the Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, Kavli believed that truly groundbreaking science wasn’t getting the attention it deserved, so he created the Kavli Prizes, which focus on the categories of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. He envisioned that the prize would someday be on par with the Nobel, and in order to spur on both the competition and scientific advances, each laureate of the Kavli Prize receives one million dollars. So, thanks to Kavli’s passion for science, many researchers are now well funded, empowered to dive deep into questions both very big and very small. What is the nature of “dark matter”? How do brain structures affect cognition? How can one control matter on the nanoscale? Fred Kavli’s philanthropy will have a long afterlife: the research that he funded could well have an immense impact on all our lives, supporting and recognizing, as the Kavli Prize does, “pioneering advances in our understanding of existence at its biggest, smallest, and most complex scales.”
While the Cadbury name is all but synonymous with chocolate, the family has long placed as much emphasis on philanthropy and good works as it has on its business ventures. In fact, from the beginning the enterprise was rooted in first doing good, with profits a secondary consideration. When chocolatier John Cadbury (1801–1889) established a manufacturing business in the early 1830s, he was already a veteran campaigner for social injustice, fighting the exploitation of child chimney sweeps, the horrors of animal cruelty, and other social ills. Drinking chocolate was not just a treat, but was also intended as a way to tempt people away from the dangers of alcohol.
Helping the disadvantaged, either by campaigning for the rights of the poor or working to alleviate the alcohol-related causes of poverty, was ingrained in the Cadbury family’s belief system. As Quakers, they battled the evils of slavery, alcoholism, poverty, and many other social problems. John Cadbury may have left the chocolate industry due to declining health in 1861, handing over the business to his two sons Richard and George, but he spent the remainder of his life dedicated to civic and social work.
At first it was slow going for the next generation of Cadbury chocolatiers, but in time the business enjoyed massive success with British consumers. The company soon needed to expand, and the family was determined to establish something better than the oppressive and dangerous factories that were then commonplace as the Industrial Revolution boomed. So instead of erecting a routine manufacturing works, the Cadbury brothers built the model village of Bournville, about four miles south of Birmingham, starting with a factory that gave the employees such unheard of amenities as “a kitchen where workers could heat up their meals, and properly heated dressing rooms where they could get changed.” The worker’s village included a garden, playgrounds, and athletic fields, and employees were ensured of getting both good wages and medical treatment. As George Cadbury said, “If the country is a good place to live in, why not to work in?”
Future generations of the Cadbury family continued the tradition of taking care of their workers by providing days off, pension plans, and unemployment benefits — and this in addition to the profits that went into causes such as promoting pension reform, fighting worker exploitation, and anti-war efforts. It was John Cadbury’s grandson, Barrow Cadbury, who truly cemented the family’s reputation as not just purveyors of chocolate to the British Empire, but as philanthropists whose passion for social activism was profoundly informed by their Quaker beliefs. Named chairman of Cadbury in 1918, two years later Barrow Cadbury, with his wife, Geraldine, set up the Barrow Cadbury Trust. Following the Quaker ideal of speaking truth to power, today the Trust tackles a number of challenging issues, including “gender-based disadvantage” and racism in all its forms, while working to bring about structural changes to create a “more just and equal society.” The Trust respects its historical roots in Quaker values, although it now embraces “all faiths and none.”
The current generation of the Cadbury family hasn’t strayed far from their chocolate or their philanthropic roots. While Kraft took over the Cadbury brand in 2010, the family continues its tradition of service: today the majority of trustees of the Barrow Cadbury Trust are direct descendants of Barrow and Geraldine Cadbury. What’s more, James Cadbury — the great-great-great grandson of John Cadbury — is getting into the chocolate business himself with Love Cocoa. The chocolate is fair trade and is made in Britain — plus 10% of the profits are donated to charity. A very sweet tradition.
Giving is part of America’s character, culture, and economy. It is an engine for ingenuity in the United States, and it is part of our nation’s social contract.
On October 3, 2017, members of the family of Carnegie institutions from Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States gathered to honor nine remarkable individuals who have followed in the footsteps of our institutions’ founder, Andrew Carnegie. These extraordinary philanthropists, who collectively have donated several billion dollars to a broad swath of worthy causes, received the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in a biennial celebration at The New York Public Library. It was the ninth such ceremony the Carnegie institutions have hosted since 2001.
The Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy provides an opportunity to celebrate Carnegie’s own rich philanthropic legacy, as well as his philosophy of giving, outlined in his most celebrated treatise, The Gospel of Wealth. Even though it was published in 1889, more than a century later this essay still serves to remind the world of the importance and prevalence of philanthropy in all our lives. Today, the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy promotes that same goal.
In the 1830s, decades before Carnegie penned The Gospel of Wealth, the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville coined the concept of American “exceptionalism” in his classic Democracy in America, in which he marveled that Americans “willingly sacrifice a portion of their time and property” to improve the welfare of their fellow citizens. Since that time, American philanthropy has witnessed many extraordinary acts of generosity. During World War I, for example, humanity witnessed one of the greatest philanthropic acts in history: Americans raised more than $100 million to support Near East Relief in its efforts to save hundreds of thousands of orphans, many of whom lost their families during the Armenian Genocide. The monumental endeavor was hardly an incidental event, however. Rather, it demonstrated the roots, range, and depth of American giving.
In 2016 alone, Americans donated some $390 billion to charitable causes, nearly three quarters of which came not from foundations or corporations, but from individuals hailing from all walks of life.
Today, this generosity of spirit continues. In 2016 alone, Americans donated some $390 billion to charitable causes, nearly three quarters of which came not from foundations or corporations, but from individuals hailing from all walks of life. In addition, the United States also regularly ranks at or near the top of the World Giving Index. These numbers do not take into account the nearly 7.8 billion volunteer hours Americans donate to educational, health, religious, cultural, environmental, and other causes, comprising an array of institutions and ideological views.
It is difficult to find a library, hospital, or school that has not benefitted from philanthropy. These institutions make up America’s flourishing and diverse independent sector, and this diversity is part of what makes our nation so strong. Neither government nor philanthropy can sustain our nation’s nonprofit institutions alone—they must work together to help keep our democracy dynamic and thriving.
The prevalence of partnerships between the public and private sectors is unique to the United States. Unlike many other countries, we do not, for example, have a single federal science ministry or a Department of Culture. Rather, we have a broad array of higher education institutions that are the envy of the world; a range of outstanding orchestras, museums, and theaters; and thousands of social service agencies that provide vital programs to the underprivileged and underserved. It is the generosity of American citizens from all backgrounds that makes the contributions of these institutions possible.
The importance and breadth of public-private partnerships in the United States is perhaps best reflected in our nation’s K–12 education system. It is governed by a patchwork of local, state, and federal bodies, and features an array of schooling options: traditional public schools, charter schools, and private and parochial schools. This system is supported by a broad range of nonprofit education organizations focused on both direct services and reform. Philanthropy, in turn, supports a great number of these institutions’ work. In this way, the philanthropic sector promotes necessary research and innovation for education reform.
Indeed, in partnering with nonprofit agencies, foundations serve as laboratories supporting experimentation for the nation. As the ninth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, John Gardner, put it, the independent sector is one “in which we are allowed to pursue truth, even if we are going in the wrong direction; allowed to experiment, even if we are bound to fail; to map unknown territory, even if we get lost.”
Of course, the nonprofit world could not exist without favorable public policy, including charitable tax deductions. When Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller originated the concept of “scientific philanthropy” more than a century ago, there were no tax incentives to motivate their generosity. But since their inception, charitable tax deductions have served as a strong driver of giving and a vital source of revenue for much of the independent sector. However, there are those who argue that we should do away with such deductions and that the funds that would otherwise flow to foundations and charitable organizations instead go toward expanding the tax base. Yet removing or reducing the deduction would encourage wealthy individuals to spend more on their families, properties, and idiosyncrasies than on worthy causes. Besides, it is clear that government alone could not support the great array of services the independent sector provides, nor could it maintain the field’s richness and diversity. An independent sector as vibrant as ours can only be sustained by an equally vibrant philanthropic sector. Indeed, philanthropy is the backbone of America’s nonprofit field, which is comprised of some 1.5 million organizations that account for 10 percent of all private sector employment nationwide.
Giving is, in short, part of America’s character, culture, and economy. It is an engine for ingenuity in the United States, and it is part of our nation’s social contract.
Religion is not, of course, the only motivating factor for generosity. Enlightenment ideals—humanism and democratic principles—are also common driving forces, as are social obligations to one’s community, one’s nation, and humanity at large.
My colleagues and friends from abroad are awed by American philanthropy. They often ask me what makes Americans so generous. I give them two answers. For one, more than 75 percent of the population identifies as religious, and every Abrahamic faith, whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, demands that the faithful be charitable, that they support the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged. This is reflected in the fact that today more than 30 percent of giving goes to religious organizations and causes. But religion is not, of course, the only motivating factor for generosity. Enlightenment ideals—humanism and democratic principles—are also common driving forces, as are social obligations to one’s community, one’s nation, and humanity at large.
We often fixate on givers’ motivations, but for me what counts most is the act and impact of giving. In our age of cynicism, I am often reminded of Machiavelli, who scandalized many of his contemporaries with his famous political treatise The Prince. In it, the Prince is only interested in the maintenance of law and order and the stability of the realm, not in his subjects’ motivations for obeying the law. He also holds that leaders should be judged above all by their actions, not their beliefs. This remains true today. Whether givers are driven by guilt, redemption, patriotism, religion, self-glory, hypocrisy—all of this is secondary. The fundamental concern is that no one is obligated to give, but so many do. While we cannot always know a philanthropist’s true motivations, we can always measure the outcomes of their giving.
Of course, the giving industry should welcome such questions and scrutiny because, as in every other sector, philanthropy is not immune to excesses and malfeasance. For example, in some instances, donors dive into addressing very complex problems, such as education, the environment, or poverty reduction, with very little expertise in the field and without seeking expert assistance. They also sometimes attach so many conditions to their gifts that they distract or distort an institution and its mission. This is common in the research field, where donors sometimes provide support on the condition that the research produces a predetermined outcome. Finally, some fear that philanthropists and foundations lack accountability to the public, acting, in effect, as unelected officials supervised only by state attorneys general.
In the face of potential abuses, it is fundamental that the philanthropic sector heed three core principles: transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
In the face of potential abuses, it is fundamental that the philanthropic sector heed three core principles: transparency, accountability, and responsibility.
Carnegie Corporation of New York—one of the oldest foundations in the United States and the first to publish an annual report—has always ascribed to these values. Indeed, more than 60 years ago, the Corporation’s board chairman, Russell Leffingwell, coined the term “glass pockets” at a congressional hearing. Later John Gardner expanded on the policy, saying, “A foundation should practice full disclosure. The larger it is, the more energetically it should disseminate full information on its activities.” The Corporation has long understood, as Carnegie did, that the public has granted us the right to exist, and we therefore owe it to the public to be as accountable and open as possible regarding our activities and funding decisions.
Fortunately, we have a healthy free press that can take to task those who misuse their powers, as well as strong democratic institutions to prevent abuses of trust. As president, Thomas Jefferson famously despised newspapers, but he nonetheless allowed that “the only security of all is in a free press.” (If he were alive today, I believe he would say the only security of all is in a free and well-informed press.)
For those who would criticize philanthropy and philanthropists, I caution that it is always easier to fall into disillusionment and cynicism. It is more difficult and, indeed, more courageous—to stand up for and live by one’s ideals. Like the hundreds of thousands of other men and women who donate their time, talents, or personal funds to worthy causes, the more than 50 recipients of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy understand this. They are exemplars of the act and art of giving, demonstrating that generosity is an act of human solidarity. They come from different backgrounds and support different fields, but they all know, as Andrew Carnegie knew, that one’s legacy is not measured by wealth, but by the good one has done for the world. They are, in my opinion, all driven by a common goal: to serve humanity and to make their communities and the world safer and more just for all.