Harold Hamm Has $20 Billion and One Top Cause: Diabetes. What's He Up To?

The numbers on diabetes are growing more dire by the day. Some estimates suggest that one in every three Americans will suffer from type 2 diabetes by 2050. In Oklahoma, that stat (type 2 and prediabetic sufferers) has already become a reality.

Enter Harold Hamm, who may be the richest American you've never heard of. The 68-year-old Oklahoma billionaire made it big in oil and his company Continental Resources has grown to become one of the top 10 petroleum liquids producers in the country. It was a company born and fostered in the state and Hamm, a high-school graduate, has since received honorary degrees from the Unversity of Oklahoma and Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Hamm is an Oklahoman through and through and was even inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2011. 

Hamm's philanthropy has ranged from everything from recent gifts to the Oklahoma City prep school Casady School to the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. The common denominator here is "Oklahoma" But above all else, Hamm is deep into the fight for diabetes in his home state and we expect this is only the beginning of an effort that will inevitably go national. 

"We want to eradicate diabetes in our lifetime," Hamm wrote in his Giving Pledge letter about what he and his wife, Sue Ann, hope to do through their healthcare giving. You can't get much more ambitious than that. And you sure can't achieve this goal by staying in Oklahoma. 

What's this oil guy's motivation? Hamm suffers from Type 2 diabetes himself. As we keep saying here at IP, a big chunk of philanthropy, especially by billionaires, is super-personal and it doesn't get much more personal than Hamm's fight. 

In the summer of 2006, Hamm's family foundation, the Harold G and Sue Ann Hamm Foundation, established the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center with a $10 million donation for facility construction on the University of Oklahoma campus. Since, there's been a steady stream of money flowing through the center from Hamm's foundation as well as outside sources.

The State of Oklahoma appropriated $10.5 million to help with initial funding and the center has since received more than $16 million in private gifts and pledges. After an initial $12 million gift from the National Institutes of Health back in 2006, the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center has received another $10.8 million from NIH to examine the causes and complications of diabetes, develop leads for new treatment methods, and prevent complications of the disease. 

Since 2012, the center has also hosted a biennial research prize in diabetes called the Hamm International Prize for Biomedical Research in Diabetes. The prize is worth $250,000 and is the largest diabetes research prize in the world.

Not bad for a local guy out of Oklahoma.

Indeed, with $20 billion to his name, a signatory of the Giving Pledge and deeply personal impetus to boot, Hamm is in the unique position to make a dent in diabetes not only in his own state but across the country. 

According to the terms of the Giving Pledge, and based on his current wealth, Hamm is set to eventually commit at least $10 billion to philanthropy. But we'd bet that (a) he'll get even richer; and (b) he ultimately gives away the bulk of his fortune.

For perspective, the second largest U.S. foundation, Ford, had $11.2 billion in assets at the end of 2012. So whether you've heard of him or not, Hamm's money is a big deal.