Terrence Meck ’00, co-founder and president of The Palette Fund, donated $150,000 to FRS 157: Philanthropy to sustain the course for three more years. Last fall was originally supposed to be the last semester that the University would offer the seminar.
FRS 157 is a course designed to give students practical experience in philanthropy. Under the guidance of Wilson School professor Stanley Katz, students learn the basics of philanthropy and make active decisions on how to spend their given budget for philanthropic purposes. The course has a certain amount of money each semester to donate to various charitable organizations.
When asked why the University had to stop offering the course, Katz said that the previous donor, the Once Upon a Time Foundation, no longer wanted to provide funding and added that it would have been impractical for the University to try and raise the funds by itself. The University would need to raise $50,000 per year to keep the class going.
“The most obvious thing to do if you want to keep it going indefinitely would be to try to raise an endowment,” Katz explained, referring to the course. “But you’d have to raise a lot of money. An endowment pays for four to five percent annually on the principal, so to get enough principal to generate $50,000 a year, that’s a big number.”
Meck, who had visited the seminar as a guest speaker in December, said that he was deeply impressed by the class and enjoyed speaking to students about his experience in philanthropy. The course was “something I wished that I had the opportunity to do when I was going to school,” he said, citing this as a motivating factor to fund the class.
Katz explained that he kept in contact with Meck after he visited the class and noted that when Meck heard that the course was no longer going to be offered, he suggested to Katz that The Palette Fund, where he serves as president of the board, could fund the seminar for several more years. Among other philanthropic efforts, the Palette Fund provides grant-making for education.
“I think it is a wonderful step for what we do,” Meck said, adding, “I feel very confident that this money is in great hands.”
Meck also noted that with the world changing rapidly, he feels like more and more young people should be represented in the world of philanthropy.
“In the next coming decade or so, the younger generation, I think, would have the opportunity to bring philanthropy to a new level,” Meck said. “At 35, I still am the youngest person usually at the table [in board of directors meetings], and I think that needs to change. I think the younger generation should be a bigger voice in the world of philanthropy and in the world of creating change in our country and internationally as well.”
Students who have taken the philanthropy seminar said they believe that the course is significant because it provides students with the opportunity to consciously give back to society and added that they are glad that this opportunity will be open to more students in the future.
“Philanthropy is such a growing sector in our lives,” Jennifer Lee ’17, said, explaining that she found what she learned in the course to be very relevant in real life and an eye-opening experience.
Katz and Lee both noted that despite the University’s interest and support for civic engagement and social entrepreneurship, students do not have many chances on campus to learn and experience pure philanthropy. Katz explained that this lack of opportunity could be explained partly by funding problems and partly because it is hard to figure out which department philanthropy courses should be in.
“One problem in most universities is that philanthropy isn’t a subject matter that fits easily into the academic structure of the university,” Katz said. “It’s not an academic discipline, it’s not a separate field,” Katz said.
He noted that he finds student-led philanthropic initiatives on campus to be more significant than regular courses.
Avaneesh Narla ’17, who was a student in the class, said he believes that bringing in lecturers engaged in philanthropic fields would help foster students’ interest in philanthropy on campus. He explained he believes students would be more interested in philanthropy if they could hear people engaged in the field talk about direct consequences of philanthropic actions.
“For example, people who signed The Giving Pledge, if you could bring in those people, it would definitely attract a lot of people,” Narla said.
Lee added that although she does not expect the University to provide funding for student-led philanthropic projects, she would appreciate it if the University provided some opportunities for students to engage with actual philanthropic organizations through internship programs like the Princeternship Program or mentoring programs.
Thirteen institutions of higher learning, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale and Penn, currently offer philanthropy courses in partnership with The Philanthropy Lab. FRS 157 is one of these courses.
Jaime Porter, assistant vice president for development operations, said the University is grateful to Meck for his support of The Program of Freshman Seminars and that Meck’s generosity will help introduce the newest Princetonians to the rigors and rewards of intellectual exploration.