D.E. Shaw, Two Sigma Billionaires Code as Janet Yellen Reads

(Bloomberg) -- The founders of D.E. Shaw and Two Sigma Investments coded over cocktails, definitely off-duty from algorithmic money-making.

David Shaw and David Siegel took turns animating a cat and making a variation of a Bach Cello Suite in Scratch, the visual programming language their kids have mastered. They were at a benefit for the Scratch Foundation Wednesday in Tribeca, with Siegel’s Two Sigma co-founder John Overdeck and Blackstone Group’s Tom Hill.

“Scratch has become a very significant part of my life,” said Siegel, noting how the free platform and community makes building 21st century skills accessible (which is a focus of the Siegel Family Endowment). “It’s an important tool to make sure kids will not be left behind.”

The event kicked off a $50 million, five-year fundraising campaign, aimed at expanding the number of users to a billion from 200 million. Designed for children ages 8 to 16, Scratch is a platform that develops computational thinking and creativity, said Mitchel Resnick, its creator and an MIT Media Lab professor of learning research. Scratch is available in 40 languages.

When Siegel’s son, then in kindergarten, told him he wanted to code, the hedge fund founder poked around on the internet and found Scratch. “I gave him a tip or two,” he said. “It was really a self-directed learning experience."

A few years later, the pair went to a Scratch conference at MIT at his son’s request. “We had a great time,” Siegel said. “When I saw all the other kids, I really felt they had to find a way to make this available to every single one." That was when he told Resnick they would start a foundation, which funded ScratchJr, a wordless version for the younger set, and ScratchEd, which helps teachers bring it to the classroom. Scratch 3.0 will be unveiled in August.

Other galas celebrated more ancient technologies -- by Scratch standards. Take the one Thursday for Jewish Board, marking 144 years of caring for those in need. The evening honored Stephanie Bernheim and board President Alice Tisch. The nonprofit’s $250 million annual budget funds 50 mental health clinics, a nursery school for children with autism and supportive housing for children and adults. Guests included Owl Rock Capital’s Marc Lipschultz, Ron Lauder and Ilana Ruskay-Kidd, founder of the Shefa School for children with language-based learning disabilities.

Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, recalled rifling through “the gigantic card catalog” at the Brooklyn Public Library as the institution honored her Tuesday night at Weylin in Williamsburg. On hand from Goldman Sachs were library trustees Kim Posnett and Sandra Schubert. Yellen said she’s reading Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right."

The New York Public Library used exquisite flowers to coax donations for personalized book plates at its April 19 luncheon where guests included novelist Janice Lee (wife of KKR co-president Joe Bae), who just published a short story on Amazon called “Bush," set in Botswana; and Caitlin Macy (wife of JPMorgan’s Jeremy Barnum), author of “Mrs.,” set on the Upper East Side. Zibby Owens, daughter of Blackstone chief Stephen Schwarzman, said she’s writing a book about falling in love at 40 and has started a podcast, “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

And then there was fire. At the Pioneer Works Village Fete, David Puth of CLS Bank, Monica Lewinsky, Maria Popova of the website Brain Pickings, the Studio Museum in Harlem’s Thelma Golden and Lawrence Benenson, a MoMA trustee, received matches to light and burn bundles of herbs. This set the mood to raise more than $100,000 for solar panels at the Red Hook art and science center.

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