“Philanthropy is what makes the wheels turn” says Malcolm Gladwell in an episode of his new podcast “Revisionist History.” I’m a Gladwell fan, having read most of his books. My favorite of his podcasts so far is titled “My Little Hundred Million.” In it he talks about Henry “Hank” Rowan, who kickstarted philanthropy to higher education with a $100 million gift to the near bankrupt, little known Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in New Jersey in the early 1990s.
Gladwell says, “everyone followed [Rowan’s] lead . . . but not really.” Many wealthy people began giving to higher education, but most of the large gifts were—and continue to be—given to the same, often elite, universities again and again.
Rowan could have given his “little $100 million” gift to his alma mater, MIT. But he didn’t, because he knew his $100 million wouldn’t make hardly any difference at all to MIT. But it would make a substantial difference to Glassboro State College. And it did.
Now, however, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, University of Chicago, Princeton, Yale, Tufts, and Baylor keep getting most of the major gifts.
In various interviews, Gladwell unpacks the question of when is enough, enough. “Would Stanford, for example, ever turn away a major gift?” he asks that university’s president. How would higher education be different if others had truly followed Rowan’s example and sought out institutions where their gifts would make a dollar-for-dollar, student-for-student impact?
We agree with Gladwell that much philanthropy doesn’t have the effect that it could. The parallels between gifts to universities share similarities to the work that we do in the non-profit world here at the CBC. We are not an elite institution, swimming in endowments. We are much more like a little-known state college.
All of this is to say, your gifts to The Center for Bioethics and Culture, both large and small, make an immediate and significant, dollar-for-dollar, person-for-person impact.
Allow me to share a few of the ways your gifts are helping to make a difference for our shared human future.
First up, we’re releasing a new documentary short film this month. We’re shifting our focus in this film to end of life issues, and we’ve interviewed a young mother of four who is living with a terminal illness and who is an outspoken opponent of physician assisted suicide. It’s a moving and inspirational piece, and I am anxious for you to see it. This film is written, produced, directed, and edited by our own CBC Team—talk about a high yield return on your gifts!
In September and October I will be in Aspen, Colorado; Kansas City, Kansas; speaking at Yale University in Connecticut; and giving talks in Madrid, Spain and Dublin, Ireland. Some of these expenses are covered, but we would welcome your gifts to offset the travel expenses that are not covered and to help keep the office humming along.
In November I’ll join our Paul Ramsey Institute Fellows and Scholars as they meet in San Francisco. Right after that Julie Bindel, a London-based writer and activist who is currently in the midst of a research project entitled “The Pimping of Pregnancy: Exposing the International Commercial Surrogacy Business,” will be arriving for about a week of meetings and public talks that we are organizing and sponsoring.
Among the events we’ll be hosting while she’s here in the U.S. is a gathering in the common area where we have office space. You may remember that we hosted a book event for our friend Wesley Smith in the Spring. We are developing this into a series of public conversations exploring a wide array of bioethics topics.
On November 11, Julie Bindel will be addressing surrogacy. On January 20, CBC Board Member Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, who is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, will address depression, suicide, and end of life issues. And in March, CBC Executive Director Matthew Eppinette will present on bioethics and popular culture.
In these events we are partnering with Justin McRoberts, a Bay Area-based artist, writer, and speaker—and husband of CBC Office Manager Amy McRoberts—who has a vast network of followers that are local to our office, but who may not yet be familiar with our work.
I hope you’ve seen the work we’ve been doing over the past few months and weeks. In particular, we’ve tried to make good use of the relatively new Facebook Live Video, hosting an “Ask Me Anything about Bioethics” on August 26. If you didn’t see it (or if you’d like to watch it again), a recording of it is archived here on our website.
None of this would be possible without your generous and faithful support of our work. We echo Hank Rowan’s vision and want you to know that your gifts will make a substantial difference.
President and Founder
The Center for Bioethics and Culture
PS – Unlike many organizations, our overhead is quite minimal. We have no buildings to maintain, and we leverage your financial gifts to maximize our effectiveness like no other! Literally, dollar for dollar, your support goes directly to getting the job done. We are proud of our accomplishments and promise you that your gifts will be used wisely. Please give today!
The Center for Bioethics and Culture is a non-profit 501(c)(3) public benefit educational organization. All gifts are tax-deductible.