Ted Turner: Big Dreams for a Better World

Ted Turner: Big Dreams for a Better World

Medalists

 

As a media tycoon, Ted Turner knows all about staying in the news. At the age of 78, Turner remains a steady presence, featuring regularly across the press in a variety of incarnations. Certainly, it is hard to imagine a more interesting person to keep tabs on. One week it will be a report on his bison farming efforts. The next it will be an article reminiscing about his forays into the world of wrestling. His name is still a hot topic in the sailing world, as well as popping up occasionally on the society pages – thanks to his knack for quotes and memorable marriages. But lately the creator of the Cable News Network (CNN) has been in the news for some of his most celebrated and worthy work: his efforts at saving the environment and promoting peace throughout the world.

In 1997, Turner launched the United Nations Foundation with a $1 billion gift. As an organization, it continues to work with the United Nations to address issues including child health, climate change and energy, and sustainable development. In addition, the gift functioned as a proto-Giving Pledge, with Turner calling on other wealthy Americans to follow his lead, telling the New York Times, “There’s a lot of people who are awash in money they don’t know what to do with. It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know what to do with it.” Of course, as one of America’s most prominent businessmen, it is no surprise that Turner was one of the first to sign the Giving Pledge when Bill Gates and Warren Buffet got the ball rolling in 2010.

 

Captain Planet, Former President Jimmy Carter and Captain Planet Co-Founder Ted Turner appear on stage during the Captain Planet Foundation’s benefit gala at Georgia Aquarium on December 7, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Former President Jimmy Carter received the 2012 Captain Planet Foundation Exemplar Award during the gala. (Photo by Ben Rose/Getty Images)

 

The United Nations Foundation gift only hints at how deeply Turner wants the world to be a better place. Having countries and leaders work together is a great first step, but that is clearly not enough for Turner. His other efforts go to extraordinary lengths to help make the world a better, safer place. His Captain Planet initiative is aimed at educating youngsters about the environment. The cartoon, fondly remembered by children from the 90’s, still has resonance, with the Captain Planet Foundation one of the most active organizations in promoting ecological stewardship to the youth.

Turner has put serious financial fire power behind his concerns. He funds a whole family of organizations that are tackling climate change, disappearing habitats, and other environmental concerns from a number of angles. The Turner Foundation and the Turner Endangered Species Fund are both targeted efforts to protect and restore the natural world. And the bison that Turner raises (well over 55,000 at this point) are not because he is an eccentric billionaire, but because he sees this farming as the way forward for sustainable and healthy meat.

 

(L-R) Ted Turner and Sam Donaldson (Photo by Jerry Fitzgerald/ABC via Getty Images)

 

Ted Turner is not bashful about taking risks. But he is doing everything he can to eliminate risk to the planet we inhabit. Along with the previously mentioned programs, he is behind the Nuclear Threat Initiative and a member of the Ocean Elders. He is man who has had many adventures across the globe, and he is doing everything in his power to ensure that the world remains available for future adventurers. That is surely a newsworthy ambition.

More Stories

Michael Bloomberg: Always Up to the Challenge

Michael Bloomberg: Always Up to the Challenge

 

Mike Bloomberg is a man who never knowingly takes the easy route. He could put his feet up and live the good life. Instead he has habitually done the exact opposite, heading straight into challenges because the world could be better for it. Many of his efforts may have seemed foolhardy at the time, but now look to be the choice of an inspired genius. His approach throughout his life has been assertively singular. He has tried on every political party for size, for instance, finally settling on being “independent”. But behind the tough New York politician is a genuinely caring man.

Bloomberg’s success grew from failure, and a desire to do something different, something that no one else had tried. Having lost his job at Wall Street’s Salomon Brothers due to restructuring, he decided not to jump back into the world of finance as might have been expected. Instead, he invested his money in the burgeoning information technology industry, and what is now known as Bloomberg LP was born. By bringing a new level of transparency and efficiency to buying and selling, the company revolutionized the industry, and what was once a one-room office in New York has since become a worldwide company with over 15,000 employees.

Bloomberg proved himself to be up to the challenge of a totally new job once, so why not do it again? And what could be tougher than creating a totally new start-up? Perhaps running for mayor in one of the most politically challenging places in the world, and this was precisely what Bloomberg of course did. In 2001 Mike Bloomberg was elected the 108th Mayor of New York City. He governed with a mixture of brashness and compassion, a good mirror to the city itself, and reliably rose to the unique challenges the city presented. Much like in his earlier triumph, it was his innovative outlook that made his tenure so successful. His savviness in business helped the city weather the deep national recession better than any other metropolis in the country. And his passion for the well-being of New Yorkers resulted in public health and climate change policies that have since served as a model for the nation. He clearly could not get enough of the challenge, staying on through a third term before moving on to even bigger things.

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger (C) and Michael Bloomberg (L) get a tour of the Bloom Energy facility September 21, 2006 in Sunnyvale, California. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

 

Yet again at this point, Bloomberg had the opportunity to relax. After twelve years as the mayor of the city that never sleeps, he had certainly earned a break. But it was a break that he had no interest in taking. Along with going back to Bloomberg LP, he turned his focus to Bloomberg Philanthropies, which dealt with many of the issues he tackled as mayor – public health, arts and culture, the environment, education and government innovation. In addition, he has contributed more than $1 billion to Johns Hopkins. The University’s School of Hygiene and Public Health – the largest public health facility in the U.S. – is now the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Bloomberg also leads a number of bi-partisan coalitions that are taking action on urgent national and international issues, and in 2014 he was appointed to be the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change.

To date, Bloomberg has donated nearly $5 billion to a wide variety of causes and organizations, with Bloomberg Philanthropies donating billions more. The world is always confronting new challenges, and Mike Bloomberg will certainly keep on facing them head on.

More Stories

Agnes Gund: The Art of Giving

Agnes Gund: The Art of Giving

Medalists

Depending on where you get your news, Agnes Gund is defined as many laudable things; a philanthropist, a collector, a patron, an advocate. It is worth noting that not only are all the descriptions accurate, they are all equally valid. Aggie (as she’s known to her diverse group of friends) has made an enormous impact in the art world, the philanthropic world, and remains a critical figure in New York City. She has been an energetic presence across these different spheres for many years now, never slowing down.

Most of what Aggie has done has started with art, using it as a springboard to promote education, equality, and social justice. She has sat on over 20 different boards, often at the same time, all while keeping up the busy social schedule of one of the preeminent patrons and collectors of art. She was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton. A decade and a half later she was given the Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts, presented to her by Hillary Clinton. And while many great philanthropists have been given awards, Aggie is in an elite club of being the name of an award – the Independent Curators International gives out the Agnes Gund Award to recognize “an established curator for their outstanding contribution to the world of art.”

 

Steven Pranica, Kiki Smith, Jeff Koons, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Julie Mehretu, Clifford Ross and Joel Shapiro attend the Studio in a School 40th Anniversary Gala on May 3rd, 2017.

 

While museums and galleries the world over sing the praises of Aggie, it is her Studio in a School that remains one of her crowning achievements. The genius collaboration of schools and working artists has continued to thrive, reaching nearly a million children in New York City alone. The project continues to provide art education to many children from lower-income families, as well as open doors to the art world to increase the diversity of the staff in museums, galleries, and art houses. As she told Artnet, “I wanted to do something that was not just a little bit here and a little bit there, but could really have an impact on school art programs.” Four decades later, the impact Studio in a School has made it truly seismic.

Aggie continues to use art to make a splash beyond the world of collectors and curators. In the summer of 2017 she sold Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” for $150 million in order to provide seed funding for the visionary Art for Justice Fund. This new effort was created to end mass incarceration in the United States by funding innovative advocacy and intervention. Selling the Lichtenstein functions not only as the initial funding, but as inspiration to other collectors and patrons to get involved. Think of it as a Giving Pledge for the art world. Much like Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates are using their giving to spur on the giving from other billionaires, Aggie is leading the charge in the art world, and expects others to follow her example.

 

A visitor stands in front of a painting entitled ‘Masterpiece,’ during a press preview of ‘Lichtenstein, a Retrospective’ at the Tate Modern on February 18, 2013 in London, England. Agnes Gund sold the piece in 2017 to start the Art for Justice Fund.

 

It seems every year or so there is a new interview or essay about the latest efforts of Agnes Gund. Recent years have seen “Agnes Gund’s Art for Social Justice’s Sake” in The New Yorker, “Agnes Gund, Art’s Grande Dame, Still Has Work to Do” in Vanity Fair, and “A Patron Gives, of Herself and Her Art” in The New York Times. It makes sense – if she never slows down, why should the news? We are all looking forward to what headlines 2018 brings.

More Stories

Pam & Pierre Omidyar: Philanthropists for the 21st Century

Pam & Pierre Omidyar: Philanthropists for the 21st Century

While they may not be particularly ostentatious about it, Pam and Pierre Omidyar are voracious when it comes to their approach to philanthropy. The fact that they have already committed over $1 billion dollars to causes close to their hearts is perhaps sometimes obscured by both their innovative methods and the wide variety of projects they tackle. Their approach is as methodical as it is varied, however, and there is little doubt that the impact the pair are having on the philanthropic world will resonate for generations to come.

Pierre became a billionaire in the early days of the tech boom, finding extraordinary success with his creation of eBay, where he still sits as chairman. Along with his wealth, he became one of the first of the Silicon Valley elite to pursue philanthropy, and since founding the Omidyar Network in 2004, his commitment to improving the world has only increased. The Omidyar Network has allowed Pam and Pierre to become philanthropic innovators and investors, funding creative and unique efforts that can both tackle problems and ensure sustainability.

 

 

Along with the Omidyar Network, Pam and Pierre have pioneered a number of other foundations to address directly some of the most pressing issues in the world today. HopeLab, which was founded by Pam in 2001, focuses on using cutting edge technology to engage young people and improve their health. What started as an idea to create a video game to help kids fight cancer gradually became much bigger and even bolder. With a generation that sees technology as second nature, HopeLab is leveraging that innate connection to bring about behavior change, enhance human connection, and increase capacity for self-efficacy. Like a spoonful of sugar with medicine, kids are having enough fun that the lessons learned hardly seem like lessons at all.

Humanity United, another of their projects, was founded in 2008 to bring new approaches to some of the biggest and most challenging problems facing mankind, including human trafficking, mass atrocities, and violent conflict. Again, the search for a unique approach is paramount, especially since many of these troubles have existed for as long as human history. The global reach of the foundation is particularly impressive, confronting diverse issues – peace building in Sudan, treatment of migrant workers creating the World Cup facilities in Qatar, and forced labor in the Thai seafood industry. As Pam said, “When humanity is united, we can act together to create a powerful force for human dignity.”

 

Founder of eBay Pierre Omidyar (L) and producer Jeffrey Skoll attend the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images)

 

What is even more remarkable is that these enormous efforts only scratch the surface of Pam and Pierre’s work so far. While they have maintained a modest lifestyle, the total scope of their work is a challenge to comprehend fully. They are just as enthusiastic about local initiatives in Hawaii as they are about national efforts for fair representation through the Democracy Fund. Most recently, they have become passionate advocates for free speech and trustworthy journalism through the global media platform The World Post and First Look Media. Jeff Skoll, another Carnegie Medalist who is a close friend and colleague put it succinctly: “Pierre is dedicated to social change and he will, deservedly, someday be acknowledged as the Rockefeller or Carnegie of our times.” With their all-encompassing approach and focus on innovation, Pam and Pierre have quickly become the 21st century model of philanthropists.

More Stories

Sir Tom Hunter: Scottish Tradition of Giving

Sir Tom Hunter: Scottish Tradition of Giving

Medalists

Author and Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson is quoted as saying, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” Andrew Carnegie’s approach to philanthropy is evidence of how wise these words are, with Carnegie institutions and libraries flourishing throughout the world, still providing invaluable resources to people every day. Another wealthy Scotsman, Sir Tom Hunter, is following this prestigious lead. Along with being Scotland’s first home-grown billionaire, he has also proven himself to be an extraordinary gift giver, planting all sorts of seeds as he puts his wealth to work.

Many of Sir Tom’s gifts come through his own Hunter Foundation. Since its inception in 1998, it has put over £50 million toward education, international development, and Scottish entrepreneurship. The Foundation’s work has found some high profile supporters, including former US President Barack Obama. Sir Tom gave him a Scottish tartan to thank him for the support. It was not just any Scottish tartan, but a specially created Obama tartan, designed with his history in mind and registered in the Scottish Register of Tartans.

 

Former US President Barack Obama during a round of golf on the Old Course at St Andrews during a Visit to Scotland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire. (Photo by Andrew Milligan/PA Images via Getty Images)

 

With much of the gift giving based in Scotland, Sir Tom has found multiple ways to both make a sustainable impact as well as honor the country he so clearly loves. The Royal Bank of Scotland Kiltwalk is an annual charity fundraiser that lets any charity get involved, and The Hunter Foundation adds to all fundraising with an additional 40%. On top of that, The Hunter Foundation gave additional money for every hour of time worked by volunteers at the event. Yet another way to spread the seeds of wealth to many deserving recipients.

Known to be quite a personality, it is fascinating to see who has been influenced Sir Tom, and in turn, who he has influenced. He has put in the initial funding for a Billy Connolly statue in the funnyman’s hometown Glasgow, acknowledging the impact the Scottish comedian had on many lives, including his own. And coming full circle, comedian and documentarian Louise Reay credits Sir Tom with inspiring her to focus on comedy full time, telling iNews, “I once filmed the Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter give a motivational speech to some school kids. He was amazing and spoke about the importance of going for what you want and not waiting for permission. It’s so cheesy I know, but this actually is what inspired me to go for it and make my first solo hour comedy show.”

 

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton greets farmers and residents from the village of Neno with Tom Hunter (2nd-L) during a visit July 20, 2007 to the village of Neno, Malawi. Clinton is on an eight day visit to the African continent to visit sites supported by the Clinton Foundation. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images for the Clinton Foundation)

 

When signing the Giving Pledge to donate the majority of his wealth to philanthropy, Sir Tom wrote, “We don’t want to be the richest guys in the graveyard, we want to “do good” while we are still alive. Why let others have all the fun?” – echoing Andrew Carnegie’s “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” The world is lucky to bear witness to someone heavily influenced by these words who is giving his money away with such purpose, spirit and panache. And he will continue planting seeds of inspiration and empowerment, allowing good to take root in his name.

More Stories

Mei Hing Chak: China’s First Lady of Philanthropy

Mei Hing Chak: China’s First Lady of Philanthropy

Medalists

Heungkong Charitable Foundation

 

Mei Hing Chak has seen incredible success in her life, often after pushing against the traditional way of doing things. As a businesswoman in China, she is in a class of her own. The growth of her Heungkong Group would be a crowning achievement for any business leader. But for Ms. Chak, her greatest source of pride is the Heungkong Charitable Foundation, China’s first non-publically sourced foundation. With her success in business and her groundbreaking work in philanthropy, she has found a way to inspire all levels of society.

While the Heungkong Charitable Foundation has been in operation for over a decade, Ms. Chak’s passion for philanthropy goes back much further. Since founding the Heungkong Group with her husband, Liu Zhiqiang, the conglomerate has given away $150 million to various causes. Prior to that, Ms. Chak demonstrated exceptional business acumen, as well as bold confidence. Instead of choosing the typical route and sitting for college entrance exams, she jumped straight into creating a company and running a business. The education she received through this experience set her up for the great success that she would find throughout the coming decades.

 

Heungkong Charitable Foundation

 

Taking a page right out of Andrew Carnegie’s book, Ms. Chak and the Heungkong Charitable Foundation seek to do “real and permanent good in this world.” The scope of these efforts is truly remarkable. Over the years, the foundation has worked tirelessly in education, poverty alleviation, and rescue and disaster relief. Early efforts found both success and support, with ambitious projects including the “Five 1,000 Project”, in which they built a thousand charity libraries, helped a thousand impoverished families, sponsored a thousand orphans, subsidized a thousand underprivileged students and recruited a thousand volunteers.

Since 2005, the foundation has reached over two million people, but just as notable is the standard they set. China now has over 3,300 registered non-profit charity foundations, all of which look to Heungkong Charitable Foundation as their forebear. The Foundation is finding success not only in the work they are doing, but also in their vision of “making charity a kind of fashion, style and culture.” And Ms. Chak is not slowing down, having received prestigious awards including “Children’s Humanitarian of China,” “Most Active Woman of China,” and “The First Poverty Alleviation Medal in China.” Her impact has been so notable that she was chosen to be the 100th torchbearer of the 2008 Olympic Games.

 

Heungkong Charitable Foundation

 

Ms. Chak’s faith in her vision has not only been a boon to her business efforts, but has been an inspiration to millions, especially to women throughout China who aspire to greatness. And her success has only made her more engaged in philanthropy, which she says is her main motivation to remain involved in her commercial efforts. In 2011, she told the BBC: “When I started my business, I wanted to escape from poverty. But I’ve come to think that our real value lies in what we should be contributing to society.” Certainly, she is an inspiration both in the business and philanthropic sectors, showing what can be achieved and what is worth fighting for.

More Stories

Sir James D. Wolfensohn: Philanthropy Through Leadership

Sir James D. Wolfensohn: Philanthropy Through Leadership

One might be inclined to think that there is nothing that Sir James D. Wolfensohn cannot do. He has received the most prestigious honors from around the world, mastered an eclectic and diverse number of disciplines, and has fought tirelessly to make the world a better place. He is a true renaissance man, and those who only know him as a past president of the World Bank or from his success at his own investment and advisory firm are aware of just a small part of Sir James’ story.

Many who have found this level of success are, unsurprisingly, tough individuals. But few embody this quality quite as literally as Sir James. He served as an officer in the Royal Australian Airforce and went to the 1956 Olympics as a member of the Australian fencing team. And along with his more well-known enterprises, he has shown exacting mental resilience in positions such as special envoy for Gaza disengagement and as a member of the American Philosophical Society. This all-around strength has made him a much sought after leader, and he regularly brings organizations to a level of success that was previously unimaginable.

 

Carnegie Hall at 57th Street and 7th Avenue December 29, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

 

One of Sir James’ most enduring connections has been with the distinguished Carnegie Hall. Starting out as a board member in 1970, Sir James later rose to become chairman of the board for over a decade. Within those years he led an extraordinarily successful effort to restore the New York landmark to its former glory. But he also took the more traditional approach to getting to Carnegie Hall – Practice, practice, practice. At the age of 41, he began taking cello lessons from the renowned player Jacqueline du Pré, with the understanding that he would grace the stage of the Hall on his 50th birthday. Not only did he succeed in this brave ambition, but he has held repeat performances, pulling along some top-notch talent including Yo-Yo Ma and Bono.

 

Bono of U2 and former President Bill Clinton at the Birthday Party Concert of World Bank President James D Wolfensohn (Photo by David S. Holloway/FilmMagic)

 

Sir James’ far reaching passions also include a variety of academic pursuits. A member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences, he spent many years as chairman of the board for the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University. Upon finishing his second term as president of the World Bank, he set up the Wolfensohn Center for Development at the Brookings Institute, which ran for five years and studied topics including poverty alleviation, youth development, and economic reform.

Thanks to his public service, as well as his time spent fighting corruption when he was at the head of the World Bank, Sir James is widely respected across the political spectrum and around the world. He has been honored by more countries than most people have visited. These include a knighthood of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun of Japan, the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the award of Officer of the Order of Australia (AO).

In a rare interview with The Australian, Sir James spoke about his ability to give, saying, “Quite honestly it was something I always had in my mind as a kid but it proved to be totally beyond me, but when I started to do a bit better and the bank account was not in debt then one of the things I immediately thought about was how can one contribute to society in a different way?” The world is certainly a better place thanks to his passionate approach to life and philanthropy.

More Stories

Shelby White: Giving with Passion

Shelby White: Giving with Passion

Medalists

Shelby White has elevated philanthropy to an art form, with both style and substance in all her decisions. Frankly, she is very good at giving money away. She has been deeply involved in philanthropy for many years, starting by helping her husband, Leon Levy, decide how to put his wealth to good use. Many decades later, she has only increased her impact on the world of giving, and her connections to the causes she supports makes it clear that being a philanthropist was her true calling.

Ms. White’s philanthropy can be read as a love letter to what shaped her, what she’s passionate about, and what she values. She and her husband were a great team, giving millions of dollars to a wide variety of organizations, so it was little surprise that the Leon Levy Foundation sprang up in 2004, shortly after his passing. Since then, Ms. White has been the unwavering leader, ensuring that her husband’s fortune would be put to good use.

The variety of programs run by the Foundation might seem somewhat disparate, but they are all causes for which Ms. White has an undeniable passion. The Leon Levy Fellowship for Neuroscience is her opportunity to best honor her late husband, focusing on his interest in finding out just how the brain works and its impact on human behavior. It is the one program in the Foundation that bears his name, the rest speaking to the shared passions of the couple.

Ever since working at Encyclopedia Britannica, Ms. White has loved studies of the ancient world – she and her husband were avid collectors of art from ancient civilizations. The Foundation, unsurprisingly, has done lots of work in related studies and archeology. Less expected is how often Ms. White (literally) gets her hands dirty in these matters, taking part in yearly digs in Israel, including being part of the team that discovered the ancient Canaanite city of Ashkelon. As she told Philanthropy Roundtable, “I like to dig. What shall I say? I love to be in a little hole the size of a small box for five hours in the broiling sun digging up a pot or a bone. I find doing this kind of detailed work exciting.” And she is just as eager about teaching as she is about donating, regularly giving her time and resources to museums, schools and institutions.

 

Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, New York on April 15, 2016. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

 

Brooklyn is lucky to be able to call Ms. White a hometown girl. A daughter of immigrant parents in the city, she has been a reliable resource for funding many things that beautify and enrich both the borough and all of New York City. Along with being a member of the board for the New York Botanical Garden, she has also contributed significantly to both Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. One can imagine how much joy and peace these places brought to a young girl growing up in the bustling metropolis. And the Leon Levy Foundation has been a key benefactor to the Brooklyn Public Library, which remains one of the best free resources that the city has to offer.

Thanks to a wide variety of interests and passions, it is almost impossible to talk about all the work Ms. White and the Leon Levy Foundation has done. Her work as a successful journalist and author have inspired free speech programs, growing up in a Jewish immigrant family has brought about significant support for Jewish cultural institutions in New York, and her childhood in the Brooklyn Birding Club has resulted in numerous efforts to save our feathered friends. The things that have provided Ms. White with inspiration and happiness are the focus of the Foundation, ensuring that they will provide similar delights and motivation to many others. She is surely a model to others who wish to give, and has also built a lasting legacy to her late husband.

 

Tour group leader and educator Laureen Fredella teaches immigrant history to a group of visiting Israeli teens outside the Lower East Side Tenement Museum on April 9, 2013 in New York City. The landmark museum preserves the history of more than 7,000 immigrants from more than 20 nations that lived, often in very cramped conditions, in the building between 1863 and 1935. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

More Stories

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins: A World of Inspiration

Kristine McDivitt Tompkins: A World of Inspiration

Everyone has a hero. Someone to look up to. Someone to emulate. These heroes run the gamut from family members to international celebrities. One person may become a doctor thanks to his mom, while another might pursue international development having been inspired by a pop-star. And while a hero is never a one-size-fits-all proposition, it is hard to imagine that there are people who would not be inspired by Kris Tompkins.

As the CEO of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, Kris proved how profitable it could be to have a company with a strong set of ethics. And post-Patagonia, she taught the world another lesson by combining forces with her husband, North Face founder Doug Tompkins, dedicating her time and wealth to protecting the earth. But how do you describe Kris, a woman who has led an undeniably extraordinary life, and successfully capture all that is inspiring about her?

 

A sign hangs over the entrance to the Patagonia outdoor clothing shop in Vail, Colorado. The retail chain is based in Ventura, California. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

 

If you see yourself as an entrepreneur, leader, or even adventurer, there is no doubt that Kris’s story is worth hearing. After meeting Yvon Chouinard, a renowned climbing gear maker, she was given an opportunity to work for his new company. At age 23 she became part of the fledgling brand Patagonia, and in the course of the next 20 years, became the CEO. She steered the company to both exceptional commercial success and unprecedented ecological activism. Her leadership proved that a company can have a strong ethical backbone, dedicated to helping preserve the earth, and still thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Of course, her work with Patagonia could be an inspiration to ecologists and nature-lovers, but it pales in comparison to what comes next. Having found such great success at the top of the company, she decided to leave it behind to focus on philanthropy and ecology full-time. She and her soon-to-be husband moved to Chile and focused their fortunes on protecting the land there. While their work was initially met with some skepticism, it has since been lauded by environmentalists throughout the world, as well as the governments and the people of Chile and Argentina. Together, Kris and Doug helped preserve over 10 million acres of land, and have donated $300 million to the cause.

 

Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) territorial male watching over females in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

 

Doug tragically passed away in 2015, but he still is an inspiration to Kris, and Kris remains an inspiration to a countless number of environmentalists, philanthropists, and women. She was named one of National Geographic’s Adventurers of the Year and won the Lowell Thomas Award from the world famous Explorer’s Club. In fact, if there is an award for adventure or conservation that Kris has not won, it is simply a matter of time. Outside Online included Kris in their recent article “The Future Is Female and These 40 Women Are Proof” and she is clearly not slowing down in her efforts to do good in the world. In fact, her nonprofit, the Tompkins Conservation, has been seeing remarkable success in the process of reintroducing wild animals to parts of Chile and Argentina where they had been previously driven out. This rewilding effort is sure to inspire animal lovers everywhere.

As Kris told National Geographic, “People need to get up every day and do something that has nothing to do with themselves.” The money she puts into saving the earth is the easiest part of the equation. Kris makes a difference by going out and devoting her time and energy to changing things for the better, and she is hoping that her example will be an inspiration to others. When it comes to heros, there is surely no one more deserving of admiration than Kris.

More Stories

Jeff Skoll: A Philanthropist for the Connected Generation

Jeff Skoll: A Philanthropist for the Connected Generation

Medalists

Jeff Skoll with the Waura people in the Brazilian

 

There is a new type of philanthropist on the scene. Thanks to the fortunes made in Silicon Valley, there is a fresh crop of billionaires who are eager to, in tech-parlance, disrupt the current system. Many are starting their own foundations, looking for new ways to give, and even seeking out suggestions from the public.

As the first full-time employee of eBay, Jeff Skoll found his wealth before the turn of the century, and has been one of the most prolific and successful philanthropists to emerge in recent years. His approach, which is both pragmatic and eye-catching, should be at the top of the list for other new philanthropists who want to ensure impact.

Within a year of making his fortune, Jeff set up the Skoll Foundation, and two years later he left his job to focus entirely on the best way to use his wealth. His efforts have been lauded both within the worlds of Silicon Valley and philanthropy. And you’re probably more aware of Jeff Skoll’s work than you realize. With a diverse set of foundations and projects, his impact has been felt far and wide.

 

(L-R) Jeffrey Skoll, Bonni Cohen, Al Gore, Jon Shenk, Diane Weyermann, and Richard Berge attend the ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power’ press conference during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 22, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Paramount)

 

Through the Skoll Foundation, as well as the Skoll World Forum, Participant Media, and many others, Jeff Skoll has led the way in creating a new form of effective philanthropy. As he told the New York Times “We began to build the organization, focused on investing in and celebrating social entrepreneurs. Not long after that, we realized there was another opportunity to help bring them together and tell their stories.”

Going strong for nearly two decades, the Skoll Foundation aims to achieve sustainable peace and prosperity by focusing on innovation and creativity to tackle large-scale problems. It is through the Skoll Foundation that many of his future efforts begin to take flight, including the World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship and Participant media. In fact, Jeff has probably done more to raise the awareness of social entrepreneurship than anyone else on this planet, with his foundation locating those who seek to change old systems and create innovative new ones. The foundation finds people and programs that are already bringing positive change to the world and does everything in its power to provide a chance to extend their reach and deepen their impact. And they have seen great success, investing over $400 million and giving out over 100 Skoll Awards to social entrepreneurs who are making a lasting impact.

 

2017 Skoll World Forum

 

And Jeff continues to provide opportunities for social entrepreneurs to flourish, thanks in no small part to the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University, and the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. These programs are a critical opportunity for social entrepreneurs and partners to connect, learn, and develop the burgeoning area of philanthropy. As a new approach to the world of giving, social entrepreneurship is still finding its way, and with the help of the Skoll Center, people are quickly learning and adapting. It is through these connections that large-scale social change is able to happen. The connections that are made are an excellent reflection of Jeff Skoll – both emotionally inspiring and cerebrally innovative.

Of all the projects Skoll has begun, the one that is most revolutionary is Participant Media. While not everyone is familiar with the production company, the films they have produced have been blockbusters and world-changers. Dedicated to entertainment that inspires and compels social change, Participant Media has produced such films as Beasts of No Nation, Denial, An Inconvenient Truth, Lincoln, The Help, and over 70 others. This is where Jeff Skoll truly shines, recognizing the importance of storytelling in bringing about change, and producing it on a scale that no other philanthropist or organization has ever imagined. It is testament to his efforts that he has achieved an extraordinary eleven Academy Award wins.

Jeff is a mix of contradictions, an empathetic pragmatist and an interview-averse storyteller. He cites former Carnegie Corporation president John Gardner as a chief role-model, providing the Skoll Foundation with their mantra – “Bet on good people doing good things.” Hopefully this new generation of philanthropists will follow Jeff’s inspirational lead.

More Stories