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10/07/2011 Charity. Education. Ukrainian Catholic University

Dmitry Firtash's Initiative Sets Inspiring Example for Businesspeople to Invest in Higher Education

The initiative of Dmitry Firtash, a renowned Ukrainian entrepreneur and benefactor has set a good example for the Ukrainian and international business community. Mr. Firtash’s endowment for the construction of Lviv-based Ukrainian Catholic University campus has met with a good deal of enthusiasm not only in Ukraine but abroad too. In particular, Mr. Adrian Slywotzky, a famous American businessman and a reputed ideologist of business strategy, inspired by this initiative also pledged to donate $1 mn to the University and called upon all wealthy entrepreneurs and industrialists to contribute into the development of Ukraine’s education system. His commentary on Mr. Firtash’s move, as well as the retrospective look at charity support to universities of the US and across the world are the key themes discussed in Mr. Slywotzky’s article published in The Ukrainian Weekly.
The Ukrainian Weekly

One good deed deserves…

by Adrian J. Slywotzky

Several weeks ago, the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation announced that one of Ukraine's wealthi­est businessmen, Dmytro Firtash, had made a large contribution to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.
I, for one, would like to thank Mr. Firtash for his groundbreaking and insightful donation. May it serve to call upon every Ukrainian industrialist, businessperson and entrepreneur - in Ukraine and in the diaspora - to make equally astute and significant investments in higher learning. May it engage all of us in accomplishing what can literally be done within one generation: creating a network of world-class, privately funded universities in Ukraine, a network second only to the great network of private uni­versities in the United States.
Out of respect for Mr. Firtash's gener­ous donation, I would like to participate in this process by contributing $1 million to UCU over a three-year period.
In higher education, there is much we can learn from the American experience. In 19th century America, vast fortunes were made in a multitude of fields: Astor (furs, real estate), Carnegie (rail, steel), Vanderbilt (rail), Mellon (banking), Rockefeller (oil), Morgan (banking), Stanford (rail) and many others.
These fortunes measured in the bil­lions. Many of these businessmen were heavily criticized for a variety of reasons. But almost all of them did something extraordinary - they invested in higher education, fueling the emergence of the best network of higher learning in the world. Large donations were made to existing universities (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth and oth­ers), and many great new universities emerged (such as Carnegie-Mellon, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Rockefeller).
The movement that started in the 19th century grew even stronger in the 20th. Major contributions by industrialists and entrepreneurs accelerated the development of a broadening network of out­standing universities, which became America's secret competitive advantage for decades.
Industrialists and business leaders have also been the primary engines of growth for the great Catholic universities in the United States: Notre Dame, Boston College, Fordham, Georgetown, Holy Cross, to name just a few.
Consider, for a moment, the cumula­tive impact of these investments: mil­lions of students received a superb edu­cation and formed friendships and rela­tionships that lasted a lifetime, contrib­uting greatly to their long-term success. Most of those students could never have afforded to pay for the full cost of their education. Funded endowments provid­ed countless scholarships that enabled talented students to get a great education even if they came from the very poorest families.
Those early donors to higher education catalyzed a self-reinforcing and self-sus­taining upward spiral. Wealth created in one generation was invested in education in a way that completely redefined what the next generation could accomplish: in science, in the professions, in the arts and in industry itself.
What happened in 19th century America happened in Korea in the 1960s and 1970s. In America, the wealth accu­mulators were branded "monopolists" or "robber barons." In Korea, they were labeled the "chaebol." (In Japan, they were labeled the "zaibatsu" and the "kei-retsu." There is an endless string of labels invented in all countries to describe great concentrations of wealth.)
As with the U.S. industrialists, the Koreans were fanatics about education. For the Koreans, the equation was simple: be the best investor in education today, and be the best in industry and commerce (and music and art...) tomorrow.
It's remarkable how much our think­ing is shaped, twisted, or clarified by the terms we use. Robber barons, oligarchs, zaibatsu, chaebol all connote a certain picture that comes to be applied univer­sally, without parsing or fine-tuning.
But there are other terms that can, and do, affect our thinking as well. "Giving back to the community," "giving back to society" or "creating opportunity for all."
As much as democracy itself, higher education has been the creator of equality in our society. It's the mechanism that makes it possible for every person, regardless of wealth or status, to achieve his or her full potential. The simple fact is that it's the super-successful that have funded the bulk of that opportunity, whether their names are Carnegie or Stanford, Vanderbilt or Frick, Rockefeller or Morgan, Mellon or Gates.
Some have funded entire universities. Others have funded major components. Just walk the grounds of any campus and you'll see all their names on the build­ings. Some have funded professorships, others have funded scholarships, research programs, or entire research institutes.
I hope we see that we're only at the very beginning of a process that will require decades and tens of billions of dollars, but whose outcome will be the creation of one of the best privately fund­ed university systems in the world. The benefits to the citizens of Ukraine, espe­cially its most talented, will be profound.
In discussing the future of higher edu­cation, we could easily become distracted by pejorative labels, such as "oligarch" or "robber baron." But this will only prevent us from focusing on the most important issues before-us:
Do we want great education for our very best talent, regardless of income?
Do we clearly understand the impact that great education can have on com­merce (and science and art, etc.) within one generation?
How will we invest to make world- class education available to every highly talented student?
The U.S. gave its answer as early as the 19th century. That answer was given, in fact, by a few dozen individuals - that's all it took to get the process started. The Koreans gave their answer in the 1970s and 1980s, immediately after the first major Korean fortunes were formed.
What will our answer be? If we think about the issues clearly, there is no limit to what we can achieve.
But we cannot win by relying on major donors alone. Consider carefully what the very best universities do: They are abso­lutely focused on achieving 100 percent alumni participation, with gifts however small.
Why? Why spend time on broad participation when so many major donors are so generous?
Why? Because making higher educa­tion effective is not only a matter of resources. It is, more importantly, a mat­ter of mindset, culture and values. It is a tangible reflection of who we are and what we believe is really important. For the great American universities, it's not just the major donors but literally hun­dreds of thousands of alumni and other contributors who opened the door to higher education for all of us.
The Ukrainian Catholic University is no different in spirit, mindset and quality from the other great universities. It, too, knows why 100 percent participation is critical.
And that is why I call upon not just our business leaders to support UCU. I also' invite every citizen in Ukraine and in the diaspora to express his or her generosity, in whatever amount they can manage. Our goal is 100 percent participation - very simple, very easy to remember - 100 percent participation in creating a very different future.
Adrian Slywotzky is a partner at Oliver Wyman, an international manage­ment consultancy. He is the author of eight books on strategy and numerous articles in the business and general press, and a frequent speaker at Davos and CEO forums. He is a contributor to the Ukrainian Catholic University.


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