Saturday, February 2, 2013

Michael Bloomberg (Progressive) and T. Boone Pickens (Conservative) Both Have Given Massive Sums to Their Alma Maters – Johns Hopkins and Oklahoma State

Guess Which School is a World Leader in Public Health and Which School Has Luxury Athletic Facilities

The philanthropy of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been legendary, but until now it has not been public that his gifts to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore will total over $1 billion. 

Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, on the Johns Hopkins campus this month, is the most generous living donor to any education institution in the United States, according to university officials and philanthropic tallies.

On Sunday, as he makes a $350 million gift to his alma mater — by far the largest in its history — the New York City mayor, along with the president of the university, will disclose the staggering sum of his donations to Johns Hopkins over the past four decades: $1.1 billion.

What has been the impact of such generosity?

Johns Hopkins as it exists today is inconceivable without Mr. Bloomberg, whose giving has fueled major improvements in the university’s reputation and rankings, its competitiveness for faculty and students, and the appearance of its campus.

His wealth — not to mention a small army of his favored architects, art consultants and landscape designers — has bankrolled and molded the handsome brick-and-marble walkways, lamps and benches that dot the campus; has constructed a physics building, a school of public health, a children’s hospital, a stem-cell research institute, a malaria institute and a library wing; has commissioned giant art installations by Kendall Buster,Mark Dion and Robert Israel; and has financed 20 percent of all need-based financial aid grants to undergraduates over the past few years. (Even his ex-wife and in-laws make a campus cameo, on the dedication plaque for a science building he financed.)

Does Mr. Bloomberg get special treatment?  Well, yes.

Of course, certain courtesies are extended to a donor at Mr. Bloomberg’s level. When Dr. Miller realized that the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center would be connected to a new tower named for Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, the former president of theUnited Arab Emirates, he nervously called the mayor.

“Will you have a problem with this?” he asked Mr. Bloomberg.

The mayor thanked him for the call, but made clear he had no objection. “A Jew on one side, an Arab on the other,” he told Dr. Miller. “That’s what we should do in this world.”

Compare all this with another equally famous donor, T. Boone Pickens, a man of massive wealth from energy who has donated hundreds of millions to Oklahoma State University.  Some of Mr. Pickens' largesse has gone for academics, but a large portion of it has been dedicated to funding intercollegiate athletics.  As for Johns Hopkins, Mr. Pickens surely has great disdain for the school which doesn’t even field a Division I football team.

So at the end of the day the generosity of Mr. Bloomberg will ensure that millions of people world wide will lead better, longer and healthier, more productive lives. And the generosity of Mr. Pickens will ensure that the football team at Oklahoma State is guaranteed at least a bowl game appearance in Boise.

Whose values do you want influencing public policy?

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