Why I'll Give Most of My $425 Million PowerBall Jackpot Winnings to Higher Ed

Don't even bother buying a PowerBall ticket for tonight's $425 million drawing. I've already purchased the winning ticket.

November 27, 2012

Don't even bother buying a PowerBall ticket for tonight's $425 million drawing. I've already purchased the winning ticket.  

Having possession of the winning PowerBall ticket for a few days has given me some time to think about what I'll do with my winnings. Besides the usual windfall purchases we'd all make (an Audible Platinum subscription for $229.50 etc.), most of my PowerBall winnings will be donated to the higher education institutions that my wife and I have attended over the years.

Why give the money to higher ed? Why give millions of dollars to the private, nonprofit institutions that we attended (or work for), and which have endowments in many multiples of our PowerBall jackpot? 

3 reasons:

Reason #1 - I Understand Higher Ed:

I want to understand how my gift will be used. I want to know enough about the institutions or organizations that I give to to be able to evaluate how the money is spent. For me, this means donating to higher ed. Or more precisely, smaller private non-profit higher ed. I've spent almost all my career working in various role in higher ed (with a few short years outside of academia during the first dot-com bubble), and I grew up in an academic family. 

For better or for worse higher ed is really all I understand, and most of what interests me. I will know what is a good higher ed investment, and what is a waste of dollars. I have strong opinions where the traditional campus based residential non-profit institutions should be investing, and I'd like to be part of those efforts. There are many many people in my higher ed network who are doing work that I strongly believe in - colleagues working on projects in which I'd like to invest.  

Every dollar that I will give to higher ed is a dollar that I can be sure is utilized wisely, and which I will grasp (and hopefully shape) how it is spent. There is no doubt that there are many many worthy destinations for giving, but it is only higher ed that I know enough about that giving transforms into investing.

Reason #2 - Ideas and The Multiplier Effect:

Money donated to higher ed goes a long way. What my $425 million PowerBall jackpot gift will be funding is the creation of new knowledge, a product that is not exhausted with use.   

I've always been captivated by the John Maynard Keynes quotes:

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.”.    

“Ideas shape the course of history.”

"“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.”

It is out of higher ed that the best ideas are still born. In our technology field we find that companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Dell and countless others all began on campus or another.  It will be ideas, ideas for new companies or new medicines or new organizations or new technologies that will change people's lives in the 21st century. These ideas will emerge from universities.  I would like to invest in the brain's that will come up with these ideas.

Reason #3 - Funding EdTech Innovation: 

Where I really want to invest my $425 million PowerBall jackpot is in building a network of higher ed institutions that are making long-range investments in edtech innovation. Technology is only the lever for improving education, for increasing quality and access while driving down costs, but it is a powerful lever.

We have an amazing opportunity to combine what we know about the brain and how people learn with rapid advances in technology (including personal and consumer technologies such as mobile communications) to recreate a higher education for the 21st century. A $425 million dollar gift, spread across a few leading institutions that combine a research and teach focus, will catalyze this creation of a new way to conceive of and disseminate post-secondary education. 

Where will you give your winnings from next week's PowerBall jackpot?


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