During the span of his long career, T. Boone Pickens created thousands of jobs and made billions of millions of dollars — for others as well as himself — and he wasn’t timid about spreading it around.
His view: “I like making money. I like giving it away — not as much as I like making it, but it’s a close second.”
The breadth of his philanthropy — more than $1 billion during his career — included health and medical research, treatment and services; entrepreneurship; kids at risk; education and athletics, with a particular focus on his alma mater, Oklahoma State University; corporate health and fitness; and conservation and wildlife management. While many donations involved millions of dollars and attract headlines, there are hundreds more ranging from hundreds of thousands to several hundred. Each is important in its own way.
In 2007, Pickens brought his innovative entrepreneurial approach to the philanthropic sector, announcing $50 million each for two University of Texas health care institutions: UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Under unique agreements, the gifts created special funds at the institutions, requiring that they grow to $1 billion ($500 million each) within 25 years from earnings on the original principal and/or from new outside donations solicited by the institutions. Under the terms of the agreement, once the institutions had met the $500 million marks, they were free to distribute the funds as they deemed fit.
In OSU’s $1 billion Branding Success fundraising campaign, he challenged other alums to be generous by agreeing to match donations up to $100 million. Pickens was one of the most generous university benefactors of all time, having so far contributed more than $652 million to his alma mater, divided nearly evenly between academics and athletics.
In many ways, Pickens was a record-setting philanthropist: His $165 million gift to OSU in 2005 was the single-largest gift for athletics in NCAA history, and the $7 million donation to the American Red Cross in 2005 was the largest individual contribution in the 150-year history of that organization.
And at the end of each year, but especially successful ones, he urged his employees to consider philanthropic giving as they received their bonuses.
“I firmly believe one of the reasons I was put on this Earth was to make money, and be generous with it,” according to Pickens. “And that’s what I’ve continually tried to do.”
To learn more about T. Boone Pickens, visit boonepickens.com.
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