Money well spent

September 12, 2007, 1:32 AM UTC

Let’s take a moment to praise the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for its decision to give $113 million to the University of California at Berkeley for the purpose of endowing 100 chairs for professors. I wrote an article several years ago about how the Hewlett and Packard foundations had deployed different strategies to manage their wealth, nearly all of which derives from the fortunes of their respective founders, William Hewlett and David Packard. Hewlett got the better end of the story because it had diversified far earlier than Packard. As a result, it suffered far less when tech stocks imploded after the bubble burst. (Today, just 6% of the Hewlett Foundation’s $87.3 billion in assets are held in shares of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) or Agilent (A), an HP spinoff.)

I didn’t write this in my article, but I came away from the experience of researching both foundations completely wowed by the brain power and commitment of its professional staff members. These are people who literally want to change the world, and they go to work — and travel the globe — daily trying to satisfy that mission. With apologies to other noble ways of spending your days, it’s so much more inspirational than building industry standard servers, designing derivative securities or, dare I say, writing magazine articles. These are good people, making a difference. Now, at a time when most people can say only whether their school’s football team won or lost last weekend, the Hewlett Foundation steps up and makes sure that Calfornia’s premier public university can continue to compete for talent with the likes of Stanford and Harvard. And they did this even though their namesakes famously got their start at Stanford, not Berkeley. Way to go, Hewlett Foundation.

(The sun shines recently on Cal, by the way. Its football team is 2-0.)