Richard O. Jacobson sure made waves when his $100 million gift to the Mayo Clinic was made public in February, 2011. I would’ve said he made waves when he announced his big gift, but frankly, Jacobson doesn’t announce much of anything. He doesn’t talk. An hour spent Googling the man is an hour wasted: Forty-five minutes in, the best we were able to find was a three-year-old quote about the $100 million, as follows: "I've been very fortunate, made a lot of money, and I have no family. I always wanted to do something for Mayo Clinic." Twenty-three words. I’ve met tortoises with more to say about their station in life than Richard O. Jacobson.
So what’s he done lately? Well, good question. After a record-breaking 2011, Richard Jacobson and his eponymous foundation both laid low, clocking in at just over $2.3 million in total donations in 2012. In 2011, his foundation alone gave over $56 million, and that’s on top of the $100 mill, which came from Jacobson’s private funds. Following such a banner year in giving, that sort of quietude makes sense. 2012 was a regrouping year, a time for reevaluation.
But. That was two years ago. And Jacobson is a lifer, a really committed, long-term giver to Mayo. Before the 2011 gift, he made a series of $1 and $2-million gifts. So there are several possibilities: He’s running out of money (unlikely; he has substantial holdings in half-a-dozen trucking and warehouse companies throughout the Midwest); enfeebled (possible; he’s 76); or quietly plotting his next big give (most likely). Jacobson grew up in Iowa, but his family is from Minnesota. His grandfather was friends with Charles and William Mayo, who founded the clinic. Visiting the clinic and valuing its services has long been a part of Jacobson’s life—he says he made his first trip there at age 4—which helps explain his remarkable generosity.
Another ten minutes of Googling, and we turned up another spare little quote from the man: “I started a warehouse business and built big, big buildings. And we hired thousands of employees. I like to do things in a big way.” Well, okay. I guess we can all rest assured that, whenever this next gift gets made, it’ll be nothing short of a show-stopper. We’re on the edge of our seats.