Throughout history, there have always been patricians and plebeians, the fortunate and the unfortunate, the wealthy and the poor. Fortunately, in light of the radical monetary differences inherent in this fiscal stratification, there have also always been charitable, philanthropic, and altruistic efforts to balance the spectrum and help tip the scales toward equality. While not all may be so generous, there are many individuals at the pinnacle of net worth who are willing to lend a hand to those who need a hand; and they deserve to be acknowledged for their charity. Listed below are some of the wealthiest and most altruistic members of society who put the “human” back in “humanity”:
The mastermind of the Star Wars franchise has developed not just a cult-like following through his vast imagination, but also a fortune to match it. In 2012, the Walt Disney Company offered Lucas the enormous sum of $4 billion for his stake in LucasFilm. He took it, but he isn’t keeping it.
Instead, the world-renowned filmmaker opted to sign the Giving Pledge, an initiative spearheaded by Bill Gates, that urges the wealthiest men and women in the world to donate the majority of their net worth to philanthropic organizations/efforts. While it is not yet known what specific charities will receive Lucas’ Giving Pledge generosity, it is clear they will be tacked onto an already extensive list of beneficiaries including, but not limited to, the George Lucas Educational Foundation and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
Indeed, Lucas’ primary interest is in education, having invested in project-based school systems that emphasize creative learning, and creating Edutopia, a website dedicated to reforming K-12 education.
“As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt — as educators, storytellers, and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so,” said Lucas.
His charity places the Star Wars creator in the ranks of the few individuals in the world to donate over $1 billion to altruistic causes.
Possibly not as well-known as Lucas, unless you’re familiar with the classic rock industry, David Geffen is a talent agent responsible for an abundance of world-famous musicians and the names they made for themselves. The Eagles, John Lennon, Aerosmith, and Guns N’ Roses all blossomed under Geffen’s guidance, leading and contributing to his incredible $6.9 billion net worth. Geffen has made a lifelong commitment to fiscal altruism as evidenced by his numerous sizable contributions to a multitude of charities. In 2002, his generosity included a $200 million donation to the UCLA School of Medicine, followed by a $100 million donation in 2012.
Geffen also blessed Avery Fisher Hall in NYC with a $100 million donation to put towards renovations. It should be noted that, at this point in time, a large portion of his fortune has not been donated, with possible plans for the money and his vast collection contemporary art currently unknown. In the meantime, Geffen continues to support a myriad of causes, such as health, education, LGBT equality, and, of course, the arts.
Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates has Paul Allen. A co-founder of Microsoft alongside Gates, Allen has since gained an astounding $17.5 billion net worth. Yet, like Gates, he refuses to hoard his cash, giving an amazing $1.8 billion to philanthropic causes over the years. Two years ago, Allen was dubbed “Philanthropist of the Year” by Inside Philanthropy for his $100 million contribution to containing Ebola and frequently ranks in lists of top philanthropists. Beyond that, he has donated $2.6 million to ocean conservation, focusing on research to prevent the destruction of coral reefs.
With a focus on community and sustaining the environment, Allen is truly an exemplary model citizen who we should all strive to emulate.
As we build our careers, our professional networks, and our fiscal resources, we need to remember to give back to the communities that enabled our development. The above men did, and I hope to follow in their footsteps as much as possible.