Jack and Laura Dangermond

NET WORTH: $3.3 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri)

FUNDING AREAS: Education, environment

OVERVIEW: The Dangermonds' philanthropy is heavily focused on education, but the environment is another key theme. Together, they have donated millions of dollars of their own money as well as billions of dollars worth of Esri products to academic institutions around the country.

BACKGROUND: Jack Dangermond initially attended California State Polytechnic where he studied environmental science. He left California for the University of Minnesota, taking a different path in his studies with urban planning. Dangermond would earn a Master's of Science from Harvard, which is where his interest in computers and the Earth’s geography began. Though he had a Harvard degree and a strong interest in computers, Dangermond chose to forgo Silicon Valley and instead head back to his native Redlands, California, with his wife Laura.

The couple founded Esri in 1969 to perform land use analysis. The digital mapping pioneer has now grown into one of the largest geographic information systems (GIS) in the country. It has a conservation program that awards product grants to organizations working in public service and conservation.

PHILOSOPHY: The couple has signed the Giving Pledge and has specified these areas of focus, according to their letter on the web site:

  • Providing software, training and technical assistance to support conservation, humanitarian activities, and STEM education; particularly geography education (K-12 and Higher Ed.)

  • Acquisition of lands for open space conservation and parks

  • Contributions to our local community

Jack has said, "Our world is evolving without consideration, and the result is a loss of biodiversity, energy issues, congestion in cities. But geography, if used correctly, can be used to redesign sustainable and more livable cities."

Jack has been named the co-winner of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Champions of the Earth Entrepreneurial Vision Award, in honor of his environmental and conservation work.  

ISSUES

ENVIRONMENT/CONSERVATION: The Dangermonds' environmental gifts include monetary donations and product donations. For example, the couple donated over 500 trees to Redlands Heritage Park. In 2007, Esri partnered up with the Snow Leopard Conservancy; the company donated GIS software and equipment for monitoring and gathering genetic material of the endangered species. The company is also a founding partner of Planet Action, a climate change impact organization.

Esri’s conservation program awards company product and subscription grants to all types of conservation programs including those working in climate change, wildlife conservation, and marine conservation. The Dangermonds and Esri also were instrumental in creating the unique Urban Observatory, an interactive exhibit that gives users the chance to compare and contrast maps of cities around the world.

Also, as of late 2015, Esri has partnered with NASA to improve access to cloud imagery. According to Jack , "by contributing the LERC algorithm to the geospatial community, we hope to inspire innovation and encourage problem solving."

EDUCATION: The Dangermonds' education donations have gone almost exclusively to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since 2007, the couple has donated over $60 million to the university. Their gifts support a wide variety of programs including:

  • The establishment of the Jack and Laura Dangermond Fund for UC Santa Barbara’s Geography program. The fund awards scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students within the school’s geography program.

  • The Jack and Laura Dangermond Endowed Chair in Geography, the first endowed chair in the history of the department

  • A travel scholarship program for graduate and undergraduate students conducting GIS-related work

  • Graduate and undergraduate fellowships for students working in the field of geographic information science.

The Dangermonds have pledged that their  company would donate $1 billion worth of software and products to more than 100,000 K-12 schools around the nation. An ArcGIS online account costs upwards of $10,000 but the company will make it free for the chosen schools. Of the donation, Jack  stated, “Bringing GIS into schools gets the kids very excited and indirectly teaches them different components of STEM education. That’s been illustrated at school after school.”

The Dangermonds aim to make Esri’s mapping software available to every K-12 school in the country, saying “This kind of project-based learning is going to have an impact on students. We have to build a better education in this country. We need to step it up.”

LOOKING FORWARD: Over the years, the Dangermonds' philanthropy has followed their  efforts toward advancing the use of GIS in conservation and sustainability. The couple has signed the Giving Pledge as well, and has said they intend to work as long as they are able.

CONTACT:

Charles Convis, ESRI Conservation Program Coordinator

380 New York St., Redlands, CA, 92373

909-793-2853 x2488

email: ecp2@esri.com