At Yale, Teaching and Learning About the Fickle Nature of Philanthropy

Yale University could offer a firsthand curriculum on the fickle nature of philanthropy.

First, there’s the lesson on dirty money. Last week, the Yale Daily News reported that the university agreed to pay $1 million to Industrial Enterprises of America, to settle the company’s complaint that its former CEO, a Yale alumn named John Mazzuto, made a $1.7 million donation to Yale in shares of stock that he may have obtained illegally through an option plan meant for company employees. Yale used the gift to build a baseball facility.

Several years ago, Yale taught a different lesson in philanthropy, when it returned a $20 million gift from alumn Lee Bass that would have funded an intensive course in Western civilization. Only catch: Bass had insisted on the right to approve professors. Not to worry, as the Yale Herald, another campus newspaper, assured readers, Lee is “only one of four billionaire Basses who have given millions to Yale in the past.”

Meanwhile, Yale boasts America’s second-largest university endowment. Ranking behind only Harvard’s the Bulldogs’ kitty was worth more than $16 billion, even after the crash of 2008.


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