Meet the Donor Helping Veterans Pay For Their MBA Degree

There's a guiding principle in the world of philanthropy that stipulates that past giving leads to more giving, creating a kind of domino effect around a certain cause. Call it human nature, the power of the crowds, or some intangible momentum-like dynamic, but the phenomenon is real. And we're currently seeing it manifested in the arena of veterans care.

The momentum reached a stunning crescendo in early April, when Steve Cohen gave a $275 million pledge to support military veterans and their families by opening up free mental-healthcare clinics across the country. As we noted at the time, it appeared to be the largest gift ever made by a private individual to help veterans. It's also one of the larger gifts ever made for mental health.

Yet while the sheer magnitude of Cohen's grant is historic, it shouldn't detract from an equally compelling trend—the ever-expanding breadth of veteran-related grants beyond the perennial areas of mental health treatment and job training.

Take news out of Chicago, for example, where University of Chicago Booth School of Business alumnus Eric Gleacher, made a $10 million gift to his alma mater to fund a groundbreaking scholarship program for U.S. veterans seeking a Chicago Booth MBA.

The Gleacher Veteran Scholars Fund will provide a permanent source of scholarship support to help veterans "bridge the gap between the benefits they have earned from the government and the remaining costs associated with receiving their MBA degrees from Booth."

For Gleacher, the gift is personal. "My experience in the Marine Corps gave me a boost in self-confidence, and my Booth education gave me direction, helping me decide which area of business I wanted to pursue," he said. "It was a winning combination, and I want to make it possible for those who have served our country to have the same opportunity."

After stints with Lehman Brothers and Morgan Stanley, Gleacher founded Gleacher and Company, a successful mergers and acquisition boutique, in 1990, which he ran and developed until 2009 when he sold it and retired as CEO. In 1996, Gleacher gave $15 million to Booth to help finance its downtown Chicago riverfront Gleacher Center, which houses Booth’s evening and weekend programs, as well as its North American executive program.

All of which brings us back to our original premise—the expanded scope of philanthropic efforts aimed at supporting veterans. Helping veterans pay for their MBA degree is but one example. Another is strengthening relationships between military families and veterans with their theaters, best exemplified by organizations like the Blue Star Theatre program and the James Irvine Foundation's Exploring Engagement Fund.

Add it all up, and you'll see foundations committing funds to support veterans throughout all aspects of their reentry into civilian life.