They don’t make philanthropists like they used to

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    I grew up in a small mill town in Berkshire County, Massachusetts that incongruously had a magnificent public library for a town that small and that poor.  

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/w…

    We lived within walking distance of that library, and I made countless trips to the library when I was in school.  

    That library was the result of a gift from Andrew Carnegie, who used his fortune to build 2,509 public libraries throughout the English-speaking world, and also did a lot more than that.

    http://library.columbia.edu/lo…

    I thought of Andrew Carnegie when I read this story about Stephen Schwartzman, the billionaire co-founder of the Blackstone Group, giving $150 million to Yale to build a new student center.  

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/mon…

    Of course giving to Yale is a great and noble thing to do (as opposed to say buying a minor league sports team franchise); and it would have been fiduciary malpractice for Yale to turn down the gift, especially from an alumnus. But is also quite true, as the Slate piece points out, that Yale doesn’t have a crying need for a new student center. Yale has “residential colleges”, each of which has its own dining hall and meeting rooms.  It is also true that Yale has a $25 billion endowment at this point, and if it thought it really needed a new student center, it would already have one.

    I could be wrong, but I doubt Andrew Carnegie would have given such a gift to a university that was doing so well financially. Also I can’t help thinking that a $150 million gift would probably save Sweet Briar College, and its 3200 acre campus, from the auction block.