I recently wrote about the committed environmental philanthropy of investor Duncan McFarland and his wife Ellen. A lot of the McFarland's environmental giving takes place at a regional level outside Boston and in other parts of the Northeast. While many finance folks live in New York, Boston, Chicago and the other major commerce centers of the U.S., they also take up residence in greener regions, which they often feel compelled to support. This brings us to Scott Bok.
Scott Bok is CEO of Greenhill & Co, an independent investment bank headquartered in Manhattan. Starting in the late 1980s, Bok and his family began spending the weekends in northwestern Connecticut. As their ties to the region strengthened, they discovered that the historic White Hart Inn, an early 19th-century landmark in Salisbury, Conn., was in a financial bind. So in 1998, the Boks purchased and renovated the inn (and sold it 12 years later).
A decade later, the Boks purchased and renovated a 115-acre farm nearby, dubbing the property Twin Lakes Farm. The farm provided fruits and vegetables to the inn’s restaurant, and served as the sole supplier of its beef. As Bok puts it, "Our farming operation derived from a natural love of land and wanting to protect it from development." It was a learn-as-you-go experience, as Bok and his wife Roxanne read up on raising cattle, farming and sustainability. Roxanne has become particularly passionate about horses, and even wrote a book about her experiences, titled Horsekeeping: One Woman's Tale of Barn and Country Life. Scott Bok, meanwhile, has been a member of the Berkshire Taconic Advisory Council of the Nature Conservancy.
The couple's charitable vehicle, the Bok Family Foundation, goes beyond these sorts of patrician conservation efforts, reflecting a broader interest in the environment and natural world, Connecticut and in the greater Northeast, as well as nationally. The Boks through their foundation have recently funded Housatonic Valley Association, Nature Conservancy (which recently received a $400,000 grant), Wildlife Conservation Society, Scenic Hudson, and Sheffield Land Trust.
The Boks, both UPenn Class of 1981, are also big supporters of their alma mater—Scott serves on the university board. Their son is also a Wharton guy. They've supported the Kelly Writers House and created an endowed gift that funds its visiting writers series. They've also bankrolled the Bok Family Professorship in the Humanities. The couple, through their foundation, gave $2.3 million to University of Pennsylvania over three years, according to available tax records. Another important education grantee, here, is Prep for Prep, where Bok sits on the board of trustees. The Bok's foundation gave Prep for Prep $300,000 recently.
The Boks have also supported health programs and arts and culture outfits. Unfortunately for grantseekers, the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals and has a limited web presence. Bok is only in his 50s, though, and is likely to increase giving down the line, particularly toward environmental conservation and education. For a complete snapshot of this funder's work, reader our profile on Scott Bok linked below.
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