Investor Gives $100 Million to Build a Fairer Internet; Professor Gives Tufts $10 Million

Investor Gives $100 Million to Build a Fairer Internet; Professor Gives Tufts $10 Million


A roundup of notable gifts compiled by the Chronicle:

Project Liberty

Frank McCourt Jr. gave $100 million to launch Project Liberty, a new nonprofit organization that aims to develop ideas to make the internet more equitable.

Of the total, $75 million will create the McCourt Institute, which will advance the development of technology solutions to solve some of the problems that have flourished through internet platforms. The institute will operate as partnership between McCourt’s alma mater, Georgetown University, in Washington; and Sciences Po, in Paris. The remaining $25 million will create the Decentralized Social Networking Protocol, a new open-source social network.

“Like so many others, I’ve watched with deepening distress as the technology meant to provide universal access to opportunity and bring us together has become a primary reason for extreme polarization, division, and inequity,” said McCourt in a news release. “Today’s social media platforms increasingly control our data, fuel division, erode our privacy, and threaten our democracies. These problems can’t be regulated away. It’s time to reinvent a new way forward.”

McCourt founded McCourt Global, a real-estate development and private-equity firm, in New York and Los Angeles. He was the owner and chairman of the Major League Baseball team the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dodger Stadium from 2004 to 2012.

Tufts University

Jack and Jan Derby gave $10 million to the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, which has now been named for the couple. Of the total, $9 million will endow the center and $1 million will go toward a new building that will house the center.

Jack Derby founded Derby Management, a management consulting firm in Boston, and is a professor at Tufts, where he has taught sales and marketing for two decades. He is also a former director of the Entrepreneurship Center. Earlier in his career led several companies including Mayer Electronics Corporation, Litton Industries Medical Systems, and Datamedix Corporation, among others.

Virginia Tech University

William Cranwell and his wife, Ellen, and his brother Robert Cranwell and Robert’s wife, Susie, gave $7 million to support the Cranwell International Center, which offers programs and services for Virginia Tech’s international students. The center was named for the Cranwell family after a previous donation in 1986.

William and Robert Cranwell graduated from the university in 1957 and 1960, respectively. In the 1970s, the brothers co-founded HCMF Corporation, a Blacksburg, Va., company that at one time owned nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, restaurant franchises, pharmacies, real estate, and other holdings throughout Virginia.

Howard University School of Business

Shervin Pishevar and his sister Sarah Pishevar Haynes donated $3 million through their Pishevar-Haynes Family Foundation to establish the Dr. Abraham Pishevar Endowed Chair in Finance and Entrepreneurship, which is named for their father, Abraham Pishevar, a Howard University alumnus.

Shervin Pishevar co-founded Sherpa Capital, a venture-capital firm in San Francisco that was an early investor in Uber and Airbnb. He also co-founded Sherpa Foundry, a consultancy that advises entrepreneurs. Sarah Pishevar Haynes co-founded Bolt Mobility, a company that designs technology for electric scooters, bicycles, and mopeds. She is a former member of the clinical research faculty at Georgetown University School of Medicine.

The siblings’ father, Abraham Pishevar, a well-known television and radio executive in Iran in the 1970s, emigrated to the United States in 1980 after the Iranian revolution. He settled in Silver Spring, Md., and worked as a cab driver to support his family. He eventually earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Howard in 1995 and became a professor at Ajman University of Technology in the United Arab Emirates.

Columbus Museum of Art

Alan and Peggy Scantland and their children and spouses — Matt and Meara Scantland, Susan and Rob Littleton, and Pete and Michelle Scantland — gave $2 million to endow the Scantland Family Executive Deputy Director of Learning, Experience and Engagement post.

Alan Scantland and his son Matt founded CoverMyMeds, a company that develops software used by doctors and pharmacies to submit authorizations to insurers and others so that patients can receive their medications easily.

Pete Scantland founded Orange Barrel Media, a company that creates electronic and other types of outdoor billboard advertising. He is an art collector and serves as vice president of the museum’s Board of Trustees. The family also donated 27 works from their contemporary art collection.

University of California at San Diego Health

Matthew and Iris Strauss donated $2 million to establish the Iris and Matthew Strauss Chancellor’s Endowed Chair in Head and Neck Surgery at the university’s Moores Cancer Center.

Matthew Strauss founded the M.C. Strauss Company, a commercial real-estate developer in San Diego, in 1960. He was a founding investor of San Diego National Bank and an early investor of Qualcomm and several biotechnology companies.

In 2018, the couple donated $1 million to create a personalized cancer vaccine clinical trial. They previously lost a daughter to ovarian cancer.

University of California at Los Angeles Chicano Studies Research Center

Raphael Montañez Ortiz pledged $1.45 million to create the Raphael Montañez Ortiz Endowed Fund, which will support research, publications, fellowships, public events, exhibits, and lectures related to Ortiz’s work.

Ortiz is a visual artist and educator who founded El Museo del Barrio, the first Latino museum in the United States. He is considered a pioneer of the 1960s destructivist art movement. He has gained recognition over the years for his piano destruction “concerts” where he publicly destroys a piano using a sledgehammer. He is also an assemblage and film artist.

Ortiz’s works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate art museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and others.

To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1 million or more, which is updated regularly.



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