College Presidents Do Good: The Higher Ed Version of “Man Bites Dog”



It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s only fair that Miss takes note. Thanks to a mention in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Presidents’ Pledge came to my attention, and I could not be more impressed with what I learned.

Some  28 college and university presidents (current and retired) have agreed to donate a portion of their income to charities that fight poverty at home and abroad:

The Presidents’ Pledge Against Global Poverty is an initiative of current and former college and university presidents who are leaders in the fight against extreme global poverty.

These higher education leaders annually pledge five percent or more of their personal income to organizations that address the causes or effects of poverty in their communities and in countries across the globe.

Each president who participates in The Presidents’ Pledge makes this commitment as a tangible way to serve the public good, to inspire greater giving and resolve, and to spark action that alleviates global poverty.

Presidents’ Pledge participants give directly to organizations of their choosing. At least half of individual contributions are given to fund international projects; up to half of giving may be designated for anti-poverty causes in the U.S.

The presidents who have signed on to the pledge represent a broad spectrum of higher education; some are from elite institutions, others from more humble campuses.  Thanks to my long career I know several of these individuals personally; and I recognize the names of many more, because over the years they have been true leaders in a field where leadership is all too often found wanting.

I confess that when I read the Presidents’ Pledge I felt the stirrings of admiration for college presidents, a feeling that has taken a beating in my emotional repertoire over the past few years.  What’s important–and what gets me all misty-eyed–is that this group of academic CEOs are walking the walk on a path they are always asking others to travel.  Any president will tell you that raising money for her institution is the most important thing she does.  And due to the sorry state of financing in higher education today, she’s right.

One of the drivers of ferocious tuition bills, however, has been the bloated compensation packages college and university presidents and vice presidents demand–using of course the specious argument that they’d be worth that and more “in the private sector.”  Uh-huh.

So it warms the heart to see some in this privileged cohort giving back.  It’s a wonderful example to set for students and alums.

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2 thoughts on “College Presidents Do Good: The Higher Ed Version of “Man Bites Dog”

  1. I wish this story were true. However, the saga of Karen Pletz, the late president of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, shows how one can polish one’s own apple at the expense of others. The Federal indictment of Pletz for more than a million dollars worth of fraud, theft and money laundering reported that her University was the actual source of much of her charitable donations. The indictment reported that the University’s board of trustees wanted Pletz to be seen as a charitable member of the community. Not satisfied merely getting ‘good Samaritan’ credit using other people’s money, Pletz also wrote personal checks to charities that she never sent, then billed her University for reimbursement. She then claimed a charitable deduction on her income tax returns for her bogus charitable donations without claiming the University’s reimbursement to her as income. She got away with this for more than 10 years during which time she was showered with praise in the community as an exemplar of charitable giving. Read all about it here:
    http://www.justice.gov/usao/mow/news2011/pletz_indictment.pdf
    Now, don’t you wonder where the presidents’ money is really coming from?

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