Raised in South Dakota and Illinois, T. Willem Mesdag received a B.A. from Northwestern University in 1974, and a J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1978. Mesdag eventually moved westward, and the Goldman Sachs veteran spent a time as head of the firm's L.A. offices. Mesdag was one of 221 executives who controlled the firm prior to Goldman's May 1999 IPO, and he himself owned a 0.40 percent stake in the company. Mesdag later went on to found Red Mountain Capital Partners, which invests in small cap public companies with a private equity approach.
Mesdag's philanthropy has made the West Coast a top priority, and he and his wife, Lisa, a Princeton graduate and journalist who once worked for Fortune, move their philanthropy through the Mesdag Family Foundation. The outfit, like many of charitable vehicles associated with Goldman Sachs veterans, flies well under the radar, with no clear avenues for getting in touch, or guidelines either.
Of late, the couple has supported their alma maters, Northwestern and Princeton. Health, human services, and the arts are other interests. Another area that stands out is policy and international affairs where Mesdag is a director of the L.A.-based Pacific Council on International Policy, which is "committed to building the vast potential of the West Coast for impact on global issues, discourse, and policy."
The Mesdags have recently supported both the Pacific Council on International Policy, and the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization. They've also bankrolled ACES Children Education Fund, an effort of the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies which deals with environmental education. Other past grantees include Council on Foreign Relations, Human Rights Watch, and the Milken Institute, an "independent economic think tank whose mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of people in the U.S. and around the world."
It's unclear what forces are behind the couple's policy and international affairs support. It's clear, though, that Aspen, Colorado serves as an important site of philanthropy for the Mesdags. The Aspen Institute does have offices in Colorado, and the couple has supported other local outfits such Aspen Valley Land Trust.
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