A Three-Pronged Focus: A Look At Glenn Hutchins' Philanthropy

Born in 1955, Glenn Hutchins attended Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and claimed an educational hat trick of bachelor's, business and law degrees from Harvard. Hutchins is co-founder of Silver Lake Partners, a successful private equity firm specializing in technology and technology-enabled companies. Silver Lake has invested in companies such as Skype, Seagate and Dell. It's unclear how much Hutchins is worth.

Hutchins and his wife Debbie are active in philanthropy and last decade established the Hutchins Family Foundation (HFF), which has an accessible website and an executive director. Unfortunately for grantseekers, however, the foundation doesn't evaluate unsolicited requests and has thus far funded "initiatives that that have personal meaning to their family." This has primarily led to grants in three areas: public policy, education and healthcare.

The couple's education philanthropy is highlighted by their support of Hutchins' alma mater, Harvard. The school received a $30 million gift in 2012 to support academic initiatives in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and also to launch the Hutchins Family Challenge Fund for House Renewal. The couple's philanthropy at Harvard funded the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research, which "supports research on the history and culture of people of African descent the world over and provides a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas." Prominent African-American Harvard professor and host of PBS' Knowing Your Roots, Henry Louis Gates Jr., directs the center.

Hutchins initially met Gates when the latter was giving a symposium at Martha's Vineyard. At the time, Hutchins' 25th Harvard College reunion was coming up, and Hutchins was trying to figure out how to make an impact with his wealth.

The couple has strongly supported Lawrenceville School and has underwritten the Hutchins Scholars Program to support science and math students there. They've given funds to the Veterans Posse Initiative, an effort of the Posse Foundation, which "seeks to increase the attendance and graduation rates of veterans at the most selective colleges and universities." The couple's support of this initiative has focused on Vassar College, where Debbie graduated. They also support outfits such as Port Chester Carver Center, which supports underprivileged youth, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, UNC Chapel Hill, and New Visions for Public Schools.

The Hutchins Family Foundation also makes grants within the realm of public policy. This has often come with a more progressive slant, and the foundation states that its approach to public policy is to "promote the creation, dissemination and debate of smart, rigorous and independent research, with a particular focus on economic policies that foster prosperity, opportunity and fairness." Interestingly, Hutchins once served as special advisor on economic and healthcare policy under Bill Clinton.

In the public policy arena, Hutchins strongly supports the Brookings Institution, giving more than $4 million to the think tank in the two most recent tax years for which records are available. The Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy was established at Brookings to provide "independent, non-partisan analysis of fiscal and monetary policy issues in order to improve the quality and effectiveness of those policies, as well as to further public understanding of them."

Hutchins has also given sums to outfits such as the Center for American Progress, which seeks to "build on the achievements of pioneering progressives by addressing 21st century challenges such as energy, national security, economic growth and opportunity, immigration, education and health care." A component of this philanthropy also involves racial equity, and grantees include Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose goal is "to secure equal justice for all through the rule of law, targeting in particular the inequalities confronting African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities."

The Hutchins Family Foundation also makes healthcare grants and has thus far focused on a unique cause— chronic fatigue syndrome, a disorder marked by extreme, disabling fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. To that end, the couple established the Chronic Fatigue Initiative (CFI) at the Hutchins Family Foundation, "the first scientifically rigorous and statistically significant, wide-scale research into the underlying infectious, immunological and toxicological causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which previously had attracted little to no resources for basic research." That last bit about "little to no resources for basic research" gives some clues to the couple's interest, and some reports suggest that they are interested in funding orphan diseases. It's possible that there's some personal connection, here, too. CFI received at least $3.35 million in the two most recent tax years for which records are available. Some of this work involves New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Other grantees in this area include the Gladney Center for Adoption and Hospital for Special Surgery.

Hutchins and Debbie have waded into some interesting issues with their philanthropy, so far. Other modest grantmaking has involved environmental causes. Given the couple's work through CFI, perhaps support of other under-the-radar health causes will come down the line. In addition, grantseekers should keep apprised of this funder, as it may be more open to proposals in the coming years once its top priorities are addressed.

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