I recently finish a biography of Ezra Cornell in preparation for a presentation I will be making in September 2014 at the Central New York Living History Museum in Homer, New York. Although I knew much of the story of Ezra Cornell before, I was incredibly impressed in learning about his generosity in supporting educational, social and agricultural communities. In fact at his death he had essentially given away almost all of his fortune gained through his development of the telegraph. He left only a small legacy in land and support for his widow plus questionably valued railroad stock. However, he has left an extraordinary legacy in the success of Cornell University and also the Tompkins County Library he started in the mid 1800's and still exists today.
I immensely admire those who have gained so much in their lifetime who are committed to giving it away for worthy causes. Although we have a plethora of plutocrats who cling to their wealth, we do have people of both modest wealth and extraordinary wealth who are committed to distributing that wealth to worthy causes in their lifetime. Admittedly, some are holding onto half of their billions. Not so with Ezra Cornell.
For those of us with lesser wealth, there is also an opportunity to be generous. Our philanthropy may not be so noticeable, but we still can support causes without seriously hurting our standard of living. Once we have assured the comfort our spouse and/or our children of need we are left with other opportunities.,
Further on the recognition of local philanthropy, I am impressed with the generosity of Peter Grimm whose significant support has enable the success of the Central New York Living History Museum. Clearly a man of means but not likely a billionaire.
For many who have started out as impoverished individuals and have accumulated great wealth, I admire their courage to distribute that wealth to worthy causes. Be that it may that society will generate more of that kind. Hopefully, our media outlets will ballyhoo those people to encourage more to participate in philanthropy.