Another Finance Billionaire Who Is Laser-Focused on Education in His Philanthropy

In December, the Gabelli Foundation gave $10 million to Boston College to help beautify the campus. Mario J. Gabelli, 73, is a trustee of the college, and his daughter, Elisa, graduated from the school. In 2010, Gabelli gave $3 million to the school to establish the Mario J. Gabelli Endowed Professorship. Gabelli also supports the scholars program at Boston College.

These gifts are part of a broader philanthropic focus on higher education by Gabelli, who, by the way, is currently worth $1.46 billion. Gabelli made his money as the founder of GAMCO Investors, a Rye, New York-headquartered firm that currently holds close to $40 billion in assets under management. According to Forbes, Gabelli has received more than $750 million in compensation from Gamco since the company's 1999 IPO, including $68 million in 2013.

One of the reasons why education might be so personal for Gabelli is his humble beginnings. Raised in the Bronx by Italian immigrant parents, he was the first in his family to attend college, graduating from Fordham and later Columbia Business School. As Gabelli once put it, "“My parents did not have a formal education... but in this country, I had the opportunity to progress through a great education."

The Gabelli Foundation was established in 1985 and Elisa serves as president of the charity. Unfortunately for grantseekers, the outfit flies well under the radar, with a minimal web presence, and no clear avenues for getting in touch. Education has been the main thrust of Gabelli and his foundation's philanthropy, with other grants going to health causes.

In 2010, Gabelli gave $25 million to his alma mater Fordham, which renamed its business college the Gabelli School of Business. According to the most recent three years of tax records, the Gabelli Foundation has given at least $1 million to Fordham. The Gabelli School of Business recently launched a Ph.D. program, as well. In 2013, Columbia Business School received a $15 million pledge. Gabelli has also given at least $1 million to Roger Williams University, Rowan University, and University of Nevada-Reno. Gabelli through his foundation has also supported schools such as Teachers College, Pace University, UConn Foundation, NYU School of Sports Management, American University, Ithaca College, and the Gregorian University Foundation.

Additionally, Gabelli has supported K-12 education, including Ursuline School in New Rochelle, where a library at the school bears the family's name, Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in Reno, Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Iona Prep School, Fordham Preparatory School, and Greenwich Country Day School.

Gabelli also earmarks funds for health outfits. Recent grantees include Breast Cancer Alliance, Autism Speaks, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and For The Kids Foundation in Reno, a "nonprofit dedicated to providing financial aid and assistance to children in Northern Nevada with specific unmet needs such as medical, dental, mental health, or educational services for which other resources are insufficient or nonexistent."

Given the amount of money on the sidelines and the personal elements involved, Gabelli's philanthropy, particularly in the realm of higher education, should be watched carefully. Elisa, who's also been involved with Gamco, should be watched down the line as well, for the family's next generation of philanthropy.

Related: Mario J. Gabelli