IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Simon gifts to make big mark on region

IBJ Staff
December 28, 2013
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
IBJ Editorial

Billionaire Mel Simon embraced philanthropy full bore in the final years before his September 2009 death at age 82.

It turns out he was just getting warmed up, as the recent avalanche of big gifts from his fortune announced by his children demonstrates.

They range from the $40 million that Cindy Simon Skjodt gave to fund renovations to Assembly Hall in Bloomington to the $100 million Debbie Simon gave to the Pennsylvania prep school she attended. Cindy also gave $2 million to the Herron School of Art & Design’s art-therapy program and $1.5 million to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

The Simons longstanding record of giving suggests that many of the gifts will continue to be directed to central Indiana—a local-first philosophy shared by central Indiana’s other great philanthropic families, the Lillys and the Glicks.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of generous benefactors to the quality of life of this region. Without the Glicks, for instance, there would be no Cultural Trail, among many other cultural and educational amenities.

Without the Lillys, there would be no Lilly Endowment. The Indianapolis-based foundation has assets topping $7 billion and just in 2012 awarded $230 million, most of it going to charities in Indiana—from the Indianapolis Zoo to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

And over the years, the endowment has unleashed huge sums at pivotal moments in the city’s history. For instance, in 1981 it chipped in $25 million toward construction of the Hoosier Dome (even though at the time the city had no NFL team). In the early 1990s, it gave $12 million to build the Artsgarden, and this year it committed $10 million to help launch the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, a key economic-development initiative.

Many of those projects would be difficult or impossible to justify purely with government money or other traditional funding sources. Such also is the case with Simon Skjodt’s support of Assembly Hall. While the storied venue is treasured by many, the university would have been on dubious footing earmarking millions for renovations when its core educational functions are under financial strain.

The Simon giving spree is an outgrowth of the December 2012 settlement that ended a three-year legal battle over Mel Simon’s $3 billion estate. Following months of accounting work, the fortune is on track for distribution in early 2014.

Terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, but the recent giving suggests the children, who said they believed their father wanted one-third of his fortune to go to charity, may have prevailed on that point.

Other high-profile gifts might be in the offing. In a statement to IBJ this summer, attorneys involved in the estate battle said hundreds of millions of dollars in additional contributions will be distributed to charities over the next decade.

While some of the gifts will be headline-grabbing, expect others to flow to lower-profile charities that help lift up those in need. As Simon Skjodt told IBJ this fall, “My father always taught us—and I hope I teach this—that we are really lucky people—that luck is nine-tenths of it. We are so fortunate in our lives that we need to help people who aren’t as fortunate.”•

__________

To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Simon/Assembly Hall "Philanthropy"
    Let's take out our dictionaries and be clear that it's NOT "philanthropy" if you receive something in return. Oxford American dictionary - Philanthropy is "the desire to promote the welfare of others" and plastering the name of KFC/Yum, Papa John or the Simons on a public built state university sports venue is simple advertising. While no one has a problem with a $40 Million donation to renovate Assembly Hall, taking the naming rights is simply a financial transaction that the public owners can object to and protest. It initially worked for IU Law School and William Connour, but please don't call this transaction "philanthropy"
  • Everything for sale?
    Why now do existing venues like Assembly Hall, after almost 40 years, have to sell naming rights? How is it that we were able to build these facilities in the first place without selling out to wealthy egos? Funny, IU seems to find the money to build just about anything it wants, and now with major dollars flowing in from the Big 10 Network, why does a university have to prostitute itself. The money would be better spent building a competitive football program!

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1

ADVERTISEMENT