[Off Topic] An Interview with Roger Hertog, on Philanthropy
Sadly, it appears that none of us will ever have the opportunity to give away millions. But I found this article fascinating, in part because when I began reading it I thought he was making some seriously bad decisions—but as I read about the controls he was establishing, I could see his reasons.
“Free markets, free minds, all that stuff,” Mr. Hertog, a trim man with gray hair combed straight back, tells me on a recent afternoon in his vast corner office at Alliance’s building in midtown. “All that stuff” has included supporting the Manhattan Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, Commentary magazine, the New York Historical Society (he’s currently chairman), the New York Public Library (he funded a new branch in the Bronx) and scholarships for inner-city kids. He is also part-owner of the New York Sun and he used to have a stake in the New Republic.
He has given away another $50 million that his friend and mentor, the late Zalman Bernstein (founder of Sanford Bernstein, which merged with Alliance Capital), left for Jewish causes when he died in 1999. In the next 10 years, Mr. Hertog – who won the National Endowment for the Humanities medal for philanthropy last fall – expects that he will have to double both his own giving and that of Mr. Bernstein’s fortune in order to spend these two pools of money before he dies.
Via this interview, he is announcing three gifts: $4.5 million to Princeton, $5.2 million to New York University’s law school, and $1.5 million to Yeshiva University. At the first two schools, he is paying for the development of undergraduate courses that incorporate Jewish thought into their syllabi. And at the last, he is funding an honors program to introduce Orthodox Jewish students to the great ideas of the West.
On the secular end of things, he has already funded the Alexander Hamilton Center for Political Economy at NYU to the tune of over $2 million, and he is now engaged in figuring out how to replicate Yale’s “Grand Strategy” course – a yearlong seminar on military strategy taught by Charles Hill, John Lewis Gaddis and Paul Kennedy – on a dozen or so other campuses across the country.
Though Mr. Hertog’s ideological aims may seem to contradict those of the faculty and administrations at the country’s major universities, he says it is important not to have “an adversarial relationship” with them: “You have to really find partners on campuses that are tenured and that have the ability, if you provide some venture capital, to write new courses, bring in some visiting faculty and create some fellowships.”
Mr. Hertog has learned some lessons from other philanthropists’ forays into higher education: Funding will be done on a year-to-year basis – i.e., no endowed chairs. There will be specific benchmarks for success, and if those aren’t met, funding will be cut off. The focus will be on undergraduate courses rather than small graduate centers so that the greatest number of students will feel the impact. Mr. Hertog tells me that students will be surveyed about the courses with questions like, “How has this influenced what you would want to do in your career? Intellectually, how has your point of view changed about free trade or foreign aid?”
Mr. Hertog plans to be personally involved in figuring out whether a particular gift has yielded successful results. Right now, there are only four people (including secretaries) involved in his operation and there will be fewer than 10 when he’s done hiring. He writes all of the checks himself out of a personal Vanguard account.
Share this story:
Recent Related Posts
Are you reading this?
Advertising on Stand Firm works!
Click here for details.