Jim Kimsey

NET WORTH: Unknown


FUNDING AREAS: Humanitarian Issues, Education, Arts and Culture, Washington, D.C. Community

OVERVIEW: Kimsey is a founder of AOL and a major investor in defense contractor Triple Canopy, so it's a little surprising that he doesn't show up on more lists of America's wealthiest individuals. In fact, it appears that he's made a Forbes list only once, and that was the Tech 100 in 1998, when he ranked 70th with an estimated net worth of $127.1 million. One has to speculate that he's worth more than that now, though. Much of Kimsey's post-AOL career has been dedicated to philanthropy, focusing on educational, social, and cultural issues in Washington, D.C., and humanitarian issues abroad.

BACKGROUND: Kimsey graduated from West Point in 1962 and saw active duty in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. After eight years in the military, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he became a successful entrepreneur, opening several bars. In 1983, he was brought in as a consultant to a company that was formed to do online marketing for Atari. This company would soon be reorganized as AOL, with Kimsey being a cofounder and CEO, a position he held until 1995. In 1996, he launched the Kimsey Foundation, and in 1997 he stepped down from AOL's board to run the newly created AOL Foundation. He has since gone on to become a major investor in defense contractor Triple Canopy and has served on the boards of many different organizations, from venture partners and equity funds to a private, non-profit student loan company.

PHILOSOPHY: Kimsey has spent most of his time since retiring from AOL's board as an active philanthropist. Serving on the boards of various cultural institutions and as an ambassador for humanitarian issues, Kimsey has extended his philanthropy far beyond the money he is able to give. His foundation serves as a catalyst for change through the creation of strategic partnerships that "leverage resources and focus the talents of many." He has said that he is continually surprised by how much money and energy are expended in tackling the same problems in the city with little coordination, and he increasingly sees his foundation as a tool to bring together people from different sectors and backgrounds, a philosophy that he presumably carries to his roles in other philanthropic organizations as well.


HUMANITARIAN: Kimsey's time in active duty has made him an ideal champion of war-related issues and motivated his service as chairman emeritus for both Refugee International and the International Commission on Missing Persons. He has visited the Balkans and Iraq on many occasions to gain the support of different groups, helping to identify and exhume mass grave sites so that the remains of individuals can be identified using sophisticated forensic techniques. Kimsey also helped bring these techniques to New York City in the wake of 9/11.

Kimsey advocates for the humane treatment of refugees throughout the world, and he has visited Cambodia and other places to investigate the return of refugees, the removal of landmines, and other humanitarian concerns. He has worked with numerous administrations and advocates "to preserve the relevance of the United Nations," believing that an empowered and cooperative UN is crucial to the treatment and repatriation of refugees.

EDUCATION: The Kimsey Foundation's primary focus is on providing educational and cultural opportunities to disadvantaged youth in the D.C. area. Many schools have received funding from his foundation, as have organizations that provide dropout prevention, physical and emotional support services, and other education programs. When he donated $10 million to the Kennedy Center, the bulk of it was earmarked to give every fifth grader in Washington, D.C., the opportunity to see the National Symphony perform. He also supports organizations such as KIPP DC and, New Leaders, which provides leadership programs for teachers to help them become transformational leaders, and works with school districts, charter management organizations, and states to foster the conditions that enable highly effective school leaders to drive results for students.

ARTS AND CULTURE: Kimsey is on the executive committee of the Washington National Opera and is a member of the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress. He has said, "I want this city to rival New York in terms of cultural attractions." He has donated well over $15 million to support the opera and symphony and helped them raise tens, if not hundreds, of millions more.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The vast bulk of Kimsey's philanthropy in arts, culture, and education is directed toward the D.C. community. The Kimsey Foundation also supports D.C.-based community organizations that provide a variety of services to disadvantaged families and youth.

LOOKING FORWARD: While Kimsey is a major supporter of high culture in his hometown, he's also quick to remind people that we cannot leave poorer communities behind. Through his foundation and the cultural institutions where he serves on the board, look for Kimsey to extend his support of cultural organizations by developing arts education programs. As well, a component of Kimsey's philanthropy appears to be getting more involved on the global development front.


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