Charity Begins at Home: Generosity and Self-Interest among the Philanthropic Elite

Charity Begins at Home: Generosity and Self-Interest among the Philanthropic Elite

Charity Begins at Home: Generosity and Self-Interest among the Philanthropic Elite

Charity Begins at Home: Generosity and Self-Interest among the Philanthropic Elite

Excerpt

My initial insights about "the culture of philanthropy" came from experiences at Yale University. When I joined the research faculty in 1983, I was relatively unfamiliar with private educational institutions. Although I had grown up in an academic environment, I had been educated in southwestern public schools. Ivy-covered buildings and the traditions that went with them were new to me.

On my first day I was taken by a prestigious colleague to lunch at Mory's—a famous private club adjacent to the campus. It is a small structure of the federal period; the exterior looks like an affluent New England home. Inside, most of the old wooden tables, scarred by carved initials and slogans, were full. All around on the walls were photographs of former Yale sports teams: boxers, crew members, and football players.

Like many private eating clubs, Mory's is exclusive. People may join if they can afford the fees; are alumni or students of Yale College, the undergraduate division of the university; or are faculty or other designates of the "Yale community." The food is expensive and famously mediocre. It is thought to be an impressive place to bring guests.

Although I did not know it then, for a young member of the culture of philanthropy there is nothing special about Mory's. By the time they get to college, children of the charitable elite are accustomed to bad meals in glorified settings and good food whenever they choose. Most of them take their privilege for granted; they have done so all their lives. As for Yale, many expected to go there or to some other Ivy League or elite institution. In many cases their parents attended Yale or a similar private university.

A few days after that lunch at Mory's I met my first "Yalie," a lower‐ . . .

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