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Women's Roles in "Creative Destruction" as Philanthropic Force

By Patricia P. Jackson, Vice President for Development, Brown University
Zoltan Acs has written a provocative book entitled “Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What it Means for Our Economic Well-Being.” I commend the text to all development professionals, and am indebted to Curt Simic, President Emeritus of the Indiana University Foundation, for bringing it to my attention. However, I must admit to being disappointed that Acs omits what I consider a major Schumpeterian “creative destruction*” in terms of American education and philanthropy—namely, the entrance of women into both realms.

As Acs details the evolution of American education that serves as the country’s primary vehicle to increased opportunity, he fails to note women like Mary Lyon, Sophia Smith, and M. Carey Thomas who--around the same time Congressman Justin Smith Morrill was advocating for federal support of agricultural education—were promoting higher education for women at the same level as that available to men. In the cases of Mary Lyon and Sophia Smith, and early in the 20th Century, Ellen Browning Scripps, each was also backing her commitment to this type of opportunity for women with significant financial resources.

Interestingly, these early women philanthropists gained access to such resources in three different ways. Mary Lyon, a fundraiser extraordinaire, hiked the hill towns of Massachusetts asking for donations from farm families so their own daughters might have access to education. Sophia Smith inherited her wealth as she outlived her parents and several siblings, and Ellen Browning Scripps earned much of her own wealth as a journalist and as a key contributor to the Scripps publishing dynasty.

To Acs’ credit, near the end of his book, he names Oprah Winfrey as the type of entrepreneur who is creating significant wealth, and enjoys the pleasure of giving it away; he notes she is someone who has “a shot at success—that is, at both ends of it: educational opportunity and entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Acs goes on to claim “while there are a lot of rich women in the United States today, few of them have made their own fortunes.” It is too bad Acs does not follow this comment with data like that found in the American Express 2012 OPEN report that shows a 57% increase in the number of $10 million+ women-owned businesses from 2002-2012—something I would term creative destruction that is bound to affect philanthropy in this country. Indeed,  much of the research sponsored by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy backs this up in demonstrating that women have more influence on philanthropic decision making in families; that single women at every income level, but one, give more to charity than single men; and, that women currently control more than 50% of wealth in this country, admittedly, due somewhat to longer life expectancies.

Acs appropriately lauds Leland Stanford throughout the book as one who “helped forge the relationship between creative destruction in the American economy and the institutions that promote opportunity.” For instance, one of the creative destructions that Jane and Leland Stanford insisted on in the 1885 founding Stanford University was that it be coeducational.

And, make no mistake, this was both Jane’s and Leland’s undertaking! Acs notes that after Leland’s death in 1898, Jane sold her own railroad holdings and gave $11 million along with real estate that still belonged to the family to the University. The numerous stories surrounding the Stanfords visiting prestigious east coast institutions in hopes of establishing a meaningful memorial for their son, always note Jane’s participation, and certainly her own philanthropic involvement with Stanford University continued after Leland’s death making her a key player in Stanford becoming the research powerhouse it is today.

Indeed, women have been essential to the philanthropy that has enabled colleges and universities to become one of this country’s primary vehicles for increased opportunity for centuries, and continue these roles today. While it is true that much of women’s previous contributions may have come from inherited wealth—which makes sense when one considers that women traditionally outlive men—as women continue to assume more leadership roles in what Acs clearly recognizes as an entrepreneurial economy, they are certain to have even greater impact on philanthropy. Our educational and other non-profit organizations would do well to heed this creative destruction.

*A term coined by Joseph Schumpeter in his work entitled "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy" (1942) to denote a "process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one."

Patricia Jackson, Interim Vice President for Development and Alumni Relation at the Geisel School of Medicine and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health

Patricia (Trish) Jackson has over 30 years of advancement experience at a wide variety of higher education institutions, most recently as chief of staff for the central advancement division at Dartmouth College. Previously, she served as executive director of college and foundation partnerships at the Fullbridge Program in Cambridge, MA where she sought to embed the company’s programs at colleges and universities throughout the world, and coordinated with philanthropic partners to ensure that no one was denied access to career-readiness programs due to financial constraints.

In February 2013, Trish completed her eight-year tenure as vice president for development at Smith College where she managed all fundraising initiatives including the $450 million Women for the World: The Campaign for Smith, oversaw executive education, and served as an ex officio member of the Smith College Alumnae Association Board of Directors. Prior to joining Smith in 2005, Trish was associate vice president for development at Dartmouth College, and served as vice president for education at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) from 1998-2001 where she was also served as the primary philanthropic spokesperson for the organization. Trish has also served on the development staffs of Wheaton, Mount Holyoke, Claremont McKenna and Scripps colleges.

She is an alumna of Scripps College, and serves as a board member for her alma mater. She also has her MBA with an emphasis in economics of non-profits from the Drucker School of Management at The Claremont Graduate University. She currently serves on the boards of Christ Church at Dartmouth College; National Priorities Project; and, as chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly School of Philanthropy

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