MELISSA BLOCK, host:
A Quaker high school in Pennsylvania is getting a huge donation, more than $128 million over 20 years. And in a backhanded way, the school has Harvard to thank for it. In 1950, Harvard Business School rejected the application of one Warren Buffett. So Buffett wrote to a professor at Columbia, David Dodd, a renowned economist whom Buffet admired.
Dear Professor Dodd, he wrote, I thought you were dead. But now that I know you're alive, I'd like to come study with you. Well, Columbia said, yes, Buffett did. And later, that professor, David Dodd, became a business partner with Warren Buffett and invested in his company, Berkshire Hathaway. You can guess the rest. The investment paid off big time. And now, David Dodd's daughter, Barbara Dodd Anderson, is turning part of that fortune over to George School, the Quaker school she attended in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Nancy Starmer is head of school there. And Ms. Starmer, how did you hear about this donation headed your way?
Ms. NANCY STARMER (Head of School, George School): Well, we've been talking with Barbara for a number of months. She's been a donor to the school for a good time. But she first started talking about this gift when Warren Buffett last year decided to give his major gift to the Gates Foundation. And she was inspired by him to try to do something more significant for the school at a time when she could be involved in how the money was spent and see the benefit of her gift.
BLOCK: Did Barbara Dodd talk to you about her father and Warren Buffett? I take it they were friends for years.
Ms. STARMER: Yes, they were. She's talked a lot about him. She was very close to her father. She valued her teachers at George School for the same reason that her father was such a model to her. He inspired students like Warren Buffett. And her teachers inspired her here. So she's made that link a number of times and talked to us quite a bit about Warren and how close a friend he is, and how much of a role model he is in her life and about her father, as well.
BLOCK: What is George School's endowment before this latest gift?
Ms. STARMERT: Our endowment before the gift is $77 million, so this a pretty substantial shot to the school's endowment.
BLOCK: When Barbara Dodd Anderson gave you this money, did she stipulate anything about how you could or couldn't use it?
Ms. STARMER: No, she didn't. She really - she would love to be engaged, she said, in talking with us and to be involved in how we're using the funds.
BLOCK: I was looking at your Web site, and I see that the school promotes Quaker values like tolerance, equality and social justice. Would there be any Quaker value that a donation of this magnitude would come into conflict with?
Ms. STARMER: Oh, jeez.
BLOCK: Simplicity maybe?
Ms. STARMER: I, well, it, that's an interesting question, Melissa. It could come in conflict with that value if we were using it. Barbara said that one of the things that she values most about George School is that we're not a pretentious place, and Quaker schools are not pretentious places. So I think if we weren't using these funds in the kinds of ways that we are to really support the mission of the school, of being able to educate a range of students that George School of having, teachers at George School who both inspire students in the classroom and care about and respect them in all sorts of ways and create a community of that sort, I think that could be in conflict. But we won't do that, so, no, I don't think it will be in conflict with Quaker values in any way.
BLOCK: Yeah. And a thank-you note maybe headed toward Harvard Business School for their...
Ms. STARMER: I know. It's...
BLOCK: ...shortsightedness sometime back.
Ms. STARMER: They're regretting that, I'm sure.
BLOCK: In turning Warren Buffett down?
Ms. STARMERT: That's right, although they've probably thought that before. I think the story has been around for a little while. And they know that they rejected him.
BLOCK: Well, Nancy Starmer, congratulations on this gift. Thanks for talking with us.
Ms. STARMER: Thank you so much, Melissa.
BLOCK: Nancy Starmer is the Head of George School in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. That $128 million gift from Barbara Dodd Anderson will be used for, among other things, faculty compensation and student financial aid.
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