End-of-Year Gifts Go to Bugs, Wreaths, Math Logic, Opioid Crisis

(Bloomberg) -- Even as Americans contemplate how the Republican tax overhaul will affect them, one hallmark of the end-of-the-year season remains unlikely to change: Charitable donations.

This year, nonprofits collected an estimated $274 million on Giving Tuesday, a 50 percent increase over last year for the holiday created by 92Y in response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Notable gifts made during November include millions to University of Chicago, a New York City insectarium and Alzheimer’s research. To submit a gift for consideration in the Bloomberg News Philanthropy Tracker, published monthly, email agordon01@bloomberg.net.

Featured November Gift:

$10 million: Susan and Peter Solomon, chairman and founder of investment bank Peter J. Solomon Co., to the American Museum of Natural History to create an insectarium on the first floor of the proposed Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation.

"Insects represent about 80 percent of all species, and the museum has no real modern display tying them to food, to migration, to medicine, to all the things they contribute to in society," Peter Solomon said in an interview.

End-of-Year Gifts Go to Bugs, Wreaths, Math Logic, Opioid Crisis

Peter Solomon has been a bee keeper for 40 years, an interest shared by his family including daughter Kate, who did the same job for the Peace Corps in Paraguay.

"There’s nothing that focuses the mind better than 40,000 angry bees,” he said.

End-of-Year Gifts Go to Bugs, Wreaths, Math Logic, Opioid Crisis

The hobby yields the Solomons 300 pounds (136 kilograms) of honey a year. He prefers the dark, raspberry-flavored honey from bees raised in Connecticut, while his wife prefers their East Hampton honey, which has more of a mint, herbal taste.

"I don’t think we can actually have a bee hive in the museum, but we’ll have as many insects as we can, including cockroaches,” Peter Solomon said.

Other November Gifts:

$125 million: Ken Griffin, founder and chief executive officer of Citadel, to the University of Chicago for financial aid and faculty research in the economics department. While Griffin studied economics as an undergraduate at Harvard, he said "the success story at Citadel has been written by a number of people" who have economics degrees or MBAs from Chicago. The school counts 29 current or former faculty and alumni who have won the Nobel prize in economics.

$50 million: Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft Corp., to the Dementia Discovery Fund, which supports startups working on new treatments of Alzheimer’s disease. ”’You have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s,” Gates wrote on his blog. “In the United States, it is the only cause of death in the top 10 without any meaningful treatments that becomes more prevalent each year.” Gates made the donation on his own rather than through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first,” he wrote. “Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries.”

$20 million: Julian Robertson, founder of Tiger Management, to Success Academy to disseminate its curriculum, school design and teacher training to charter and district school teachers, principals and superintendents. Robertson previously gave $25 million to develop and find a home for this knowledge-sharing. The Success Academy Education Institute opened recently in New York’s Hudson Yards.

$16.6 million: Larry Ellison, co-founder and chief technology officer of Oracle, to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces. “There is no greater honor than supporting some of the bravest people in the world,” Ellison said in a statement. The gift was announced at a gala in Beverly Hills where Seal performed.

$10 million: Mort Harris, co-founder of American Axle & Manufacturing, to Wayne State University to fund in perpetuity a binding early decision program for the school’s honors college and medical school that pays full tuition. Wayne Med-Direct admits 10 students annually, giving preference to those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds interested in studying health disparities.

$1 million: Daniel Van Haften, retired from Alcatel-Lucent, to Michigan State University to endow a math department professorship in deductive literacy. "Mathematics is important to teaching people how to think logically," he said in a statement. Van Haften is the co-author of "Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason," which looks at how Lincoln’s interest in geometry shaped his speech writing.

$1 million: Dan Giustina, managing partner of timber company Giustina Resources, to the College of Agriculture at California State University, Chico. Giustina’s gift is one of many he has made in honor of his late friend Tom Bell, whose family began ranching in 1875. It will augment the Bell Family Presidential Scholarship Endowment.

$100,000: President Donald Trump’ s third-quarter salary will be donated to the Department of Health and Human Services to address the opioid crisis, which kills more than 175 Americans every day, said acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan. The money will be used to prepare a public awareness campaign about opioid addiction, Hargan said.

$10,000: Darlene Shiley, widow of Donald Shiley, a co-inventor of a prosthetic heart valve, to Wreaths Across America, a Maine-based nonprofit that organizes wreath placement in mid-December on the graves of veterans, including at Arlington National Cemetery. Shiley’s donation will fund wreaths at Valley Center Cemetery in California. "I seem to be focused on the military this time of year," Shiley told the Valley Roadrunner of her end-of-year giving in 2017.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.