News and analysis
February 06, 2012

No. 28: John C. Malone

Reuters/Rick Wilking/Landov

John C. Malone

Amount donated in 2011: $57-million

Biggest beneficiary: Yale University School of Engineering & Applied Science

Donor’s background: Mr. Malone is chairman of Liberty Media Corporation, a media and entertainment investment company, and Liberty Global, a cable and broadband Internet service provider, both in Englewood, Colo.

Mr. Malone, 70, pledged $50-million to Yale University School of Engineering & Applied Science. The money will endow 10 new engineering professorships. A payment schedule was not available.

The donor graduated from the university in 1963 with a degree in electrical engineering and gave Yale $24-million in 2000 for the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center, named for his father.

He also gave $7-million last year to DSST Public Schools, a charter-school group in Denver. He has paid $4-million of the pledge and will give the remaining $3-million to match donations from others through 2013. The gift will help the schools expand their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs.

Mr. Malone says his philanthropy is, in part, “payback to the schools that took the effort to try to educate me.” He became hooked on giving away money while paying for a science building at his private high school, which he attended as a work-scholarship student. Mr. Malone then started making big gifts to engineering programs at Yale and at the Johns Hopkins University, where he received his doctorate.

He was introduced to DSST schools by executives who work at his company. The business leader spent a day sitting in classes and in a school meeting. “I was very impressed,” he says.

Mr. Malone says he’s a big believer in education, particularly the sort that teaches technical and engineering skills. “It’s clearly the path up for people, and also the path up for society.”

A libertarian, he says he doesn’t think that big gifts to social-service groups are a way to help people out of poverty.

“I started life with a paper route, and got married on $2,000 I’d saved during my teenage years,” he says. “If you give money to homeless organizations, you create more homeless.”

—Maria Di Mento and Caroline Preston

View more profiles of donors who gave the most in 2011