NET WORTH: $5.2 billion
SOURCE of WEALTH: Director, Writer, and Producer. Founder of Lucasfilms and Industrial Light and Magic.
FUNDING AREAS: Education, Arts & Culture
OVERVIEW: George Lucas is a longtime supporter of education, though lately he’s also been very focused on building the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum in Los Angeles, which he plans to spend $1 billion on constructing and endowing. He signed the Giving Pledge with his wife Mellody Hobson, and has been focusing more on his philanthropy as he hangs up his filmmaking straps. The couple moves philanthropy through the robust George Lucas Family Foundation (which held more than $1 million in assets in a recently reported year) and the George Lucas Educational Foundation.
BACKGROUND: Lucas was born in Modesto, CA, and took an early interest in film. After attending junior college, he enroll in USC’s film school, where he also later did graduate. He cofounded the production company American Zoetrope with Francis Ford Coppola, and though his first feature film was not a success, he created his own company, Lucasfilm, and went on to write, produce and direct American Graffiti, and, of course, Star Wars. He also established the effects company Industrial Light and Magic during the process of creating Star Wars, and later went on to produce the Indiana Jones franchise and many other films.
EDUCATION: Lucas has called education the foundation of our democracy and a stepping-stone for youth to reach their full potential. He founded the George Lucas Educational Foundation in 1991, because, as he says, he found traditional education “quite frustrating.” His goal was to shine a spotlight on inspiring teachers and students, promoting innovations in education, particularly those involving project-based and cooperative learning, connecting students with experts, broader forms of assessment, and new digital multimedia and telecommunications. The organization also runs the website Edutopia, which distributes educational videos and other materials. While it does make grants, a good portion of attention goes toward developing and distributing educational materials. Grants can range from a few thousand to half a million or more, but are only given to a few select organizations per year, and tend to involve multi-year proposals. Grantees have included Michigan State University; Stanford University; University of Colorado; and University of Washington, towards a project-based learning advanced placement physics course.
Lucas’s alma mater has seen significant contributions as well. The USC film school already had one building named after Lucas and another after his ex-wife before he made the single largest donation in USC’s history in 2006, more than $175 million for the film school’s expansion. More recently, he and Mellody gave a $10 million gift for minority scholarships. Mellody is also chairs the board of a Chicago organization called After School Matters, where the couple has donated tens of millions.
ARTS & CULTURE: Lucas has been an avid art collector for many years, with a large collection of illustrations and pop art, which, together with his collection of props and movie memorabilia, is worth an estimated $1 billion. He has been actively seeking to build a museum to house his collections for some time, and the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum is finally set to be built in Los Angeles near USC. Along with his collections, Lucas will reportedly be donating $300 million for the museum’s construction, $400 million to endow it once it opens, and another $400 million will be added to the endowment down the road. Aside from this, he has previously lent some of his collection to the Smithsonian and along with Mellody gave $1 million to the new Smithsonian African American Museum. Other support has gone to places like the Norman Rockwell Museum.
LOOKING FORWARD: When Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for just over $4 billion in 2012, his spokesperson said he planned to put the majority of the proceeds toward his philanthropic endeavors. While a lot of people were expecting a major influx of cash into his educational foundation, allowing it to quickly ramp up its grantmaking, we haven’t seen that happen, at least not yet. Instead, Lucas has chosen to focus on creating his museum, where he is poised to spend at least $1 billion. Now that the museum plans are all but finalized, we can expect him to circle back to his first passion. It’s possible he’ll become involved in other arenas as well. Lucas is diabetic, so health and nutrition related causes are another possibility.
George Lucas Family Foundation
P.O. Box 2009
San Rafael, CA 94912
George Lucas Educational Foundation
P.O. Box 3494
San Rafael, CA 94912