Michael and Jenny Messner

NET WORTH: Unknown 

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Seminole Capital 

FUNDING AREAS: Education & Youth, Environment & Civil Space

OVERVIEW: Mike Messner and his wife Jenny established the Speedwell Foundation, which funds up to 30 study-abroad scholarships each year for high school students in central Pennsylvania, and focuses on restoring and expanding public parks and green spaces in the nation's cities.

BACKGROUND: Raised in Atlanta, Michael Messner graduated from Georgia Tech in 1976 with a degree in civil engineering. He cofounded hedge fund Seminole Capital with Paul Shiverick in 1995. 

ISSUES:

EDUCATION & YOUTH: A hallmark program of the Speedwell Foundation are its Speedwell AFS Study Abroad Scholarships "offered annually to up to 30 high school and gap year students from 19 counties in central Pennsylvania and 6 counties in coastal South Carolina." The scholarships and study abroad program are administered by AFS-USA. Per the foundation's website, "since starting with one scholarship to Iceland in 2007 for a student from Warwick High School in Lititz, Pennsylvania, 108 students have gone abroad on Speedwell AFS Study Abroad Scholarships, including 30 scholars in 2014."

The foundation has also supported places like MIT, with a grant going to a smartphone transportation app project; Georgia Tech, home to the Frederick Law Olmsted Chair in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering that the couple created; Johns Hopkins; Catholic Partnership Schools; Archbishop Curley High School; Boys Girls Clubs of the Peninsula; Purdue University; Orange Grove Elementary Chart School; and Public Charter School Alliance.

ENVIRONMENT & CIVIC SPACE: The Speedwell Foundation also champions efforts to restore and expand public parks and green spaces in America's cities. Projects have included Olmsted and American's Urban Parks, a one-hour documentary that examines the formation of America’s first great city parks in the late 19th century through the guidance of Frederick Law Olmsted; and Red Fields to Green Fields, a documentary on the Georgia Institute of Technology program to "identify and plan for the conversion of distressed real estate into urban parks and greenways in 11 cities." The Speedwell Foundation also recently funded the Conservation Carousel at the National Zoo, one of the first solar-powered carousels in the world. 

Other grantees have included Charleston Park Conservancy, East Cooper Land Trust, San Francisco Parks Alliance, The Trust for Public Land, and Charleston County Park Recreation Commission, where a recent seven-figure grant supported Limehouse Point Park, now called Stono River County Park. Messner is particularly passionate about civic space in Charleston and speaks about the issue in a TEDxCharleston talk. With the Shivericks, the Messners acquired, conserved, and donated the land to the commission. Overall, the aim of Redfields to Greenfields is to study the effectiveness of bringing together "private philanthropists and public entities to transform vacant and foreclosed real estate back to productive use."

OTHER: The couple's Speedwell Foundation's grantmaking has also supported arts and culture organizations like Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Gibbes Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Zo, and Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas.

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect the couple's laser focus on education and civic space to continue. 

LINK: Speedwell Foundation