From Splicing Wires to Telecom Titan: Things to Know About Ivan Seidenberg's Philanthropy

Ivan Seidenberg spent some 45 years in the telecommunications industry, rising from a splicer's helper to CEO and chairman of telco giant Verizon. Seidenberg left Verizon a few years ago, but was known as one of the best-paid CEOs in the nation, earning more than $130 million total from 2006 through 2010 alone, according to S&P's Capital IQ unit.

It's unclear how much Seidenberg is currently worth, but he evidently has plenty of cash to spare. These days, the 68-year-old Seidenberg is an advisory partner at Perella Weinberg Partners, an independent advisory and asset management firm with approximately $8.6 billion in commitments from institutional and private investors around the world.

Seidenberg, his wife Phyllis and family move their philanthropy through the Seidenberg Family Foundation, which doesn't have much of a web presence or a clear way to get in touch. Seidenberg's philanthropy focuses on several key areas:

1. A Strong Interest in Education

Last decade, Seidenberg gave $15 million to his alma mater Pace University, which renamed the School of Computer Science and Information Systems in his honor. The Seidenberg Family Foundation has recently given funds to Pace as well as Columbia University, Hunter College Foundation, Weill Medical College, and the Stafford Scholarship Foundation in Virginia, among others. At least $2 million went to Cornell University as well.

2. The Couple's Health Philanthropy is Partly Personal

The Seidenbergs recently gave $16 million to New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital for a program focused on pediatric gastrointestinal disorders. Seidenberg has been involved with New York-Presbyterian for years, and joined the board in 1996. The motivations here are personal, as the couple's grandchildren suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten that results in a host of serious problems and symptoms, including gastrointestinal issues, malnutrition, anemia, delayed growth and puberty in children, among other consequences. It's estimated that 1 in 100 people worldwide have celiac disease.

I've written before about donors in the food allergy space, wealthy individuals who've been pumping millions into cracking the code of lifelong allergies like tree nuts and peanuts. These allergies are life threatening for some, (including this writer, who carries around an epi-pen.) The foundation may raise its giving to celiac research in the coming years—and no, not just because everyone and their mother is going "gluten free" these days. As an unofficially diagnosed celiac (yep, no nuts or bread), the way I see it, popularity can sometimes be a good thing. Putting aside people who are going gluten free for the "wrong" reasons, in my experience, people are becoming increasingly aware of gluten and the trouble it can legitimately cause for some. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), the number of individuals with celiac disease doubles every 15 years. CDF itself had close to $1 million in revenue in 2014, up from around half a million in 2009. The Seidenbergs themselves have also funded CDF.

Related: Giving for Food Allergies is Anything But Peanuts Thanks to Donors Like David Koch

Apart from this work, health outfits such as Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's, Lustgarten Foundation, which deals with pancreatic cancer, Autism Special Disorder Foundation, National Alliance Mental Illness, and the Perella Fund at the American Italian Cancer Foundation have also received support. Joseph Perella is a founding partner of Perella Weinberg Partners, where Seidenberg works.

3. Assorted Sums Have Gone Elsewhere

New York Hall of Science has been heavily supported, including with some $800,000 in 2012. Seidenberg serves as emeritus chair of the board of trustees. The foundation has recently funded Lincoln Center, New York City Center, and the Metropolitan Opera, among others. It has given other grants to the United Way and WNET.

Related: Ivan G. Seidenberg