Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Phil Knight & Andrew Carnegie

Today as I was waking by the old Carnegie Library here in Medford Oregon I was thinking about how things never change. Andrew Carnegie like Phil Knight was a philanthropists who gave millions of dollars to public institutions. Carnegie to city's and Knight to the University of Oregon for a basketball arena and other projects. In both cases critics, such as Rachel Bachman of the Oregonian on Phil Knight, have complained there were strings attached to the donations.

In doing some research Andrew Carnegie adopted the "Carnegie Formula" that set requirements of communities accepting money for a library.For example, the community could not use the library for other functions other than a library and had to saddle itself with a commitment to " annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation. Then as now there were critics who were against accepting the money but today those libraries stand as monuments to Andrew Carnegie's generosity. The same will be said about Phil Knight !

The following information is from Wikipedia:

Carnegie libraries are libraries which were built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie. Over 2,500 Carnegie libraries were built, including public and university libraries. Carnegie earned the nickname Patron Saint of Libraries.

Of the 2,509 libraries funded between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, and Fiji. Very few towns that requested a grant and agreed to his terms were refused. When the last grant was made in 1919, there were 3,500 libraries in the United States, nearly half of them paid for by Carnegie.

Nearly all of Carnegie's libraries were built according to "The Carnegie Formula" which required the town that received the gift to:

demonstrate the need for a public library;

provide the building site; and

annually provide ten percent of the cost of the library's construction to support its operation.

The amount of money donated to most communities was based on U.S. Census figures and averaged approximately $2 per person. While there were some communities that refused to seek a grant, considering Carnegie's money to be tainted by his business practices, or disdaining the libraries as memorials to himself,

According to Dr Abigail A Van Slyck:

Andrew Carnegie's personal secretary and later secretary of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. From 1903 until 1911, Bertram reviewed every set of plans for a Carnegie-financed library building, and offered lengthy--and often quite pointed--criticism to the architect involved. In 1911, however, Bertram enhanced his own efficiency by codifying his advice on library planning into a pamphlet entitled "Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings." This pamphlet included both written advice and schematic plans, and was sent to municipal authorities along with notification that they had received a Carnegie grant.

The Oregonina's criticism of Phil Knights generosity is mild to some of the criticism of Andrew Carnegie. Allen Gardiner writes:

Others saw Carnegie's philanthropy differently. Many people, then as now, considered Carnegie a robber baron who had made his money off cheap labor, and the memory was still strong of the 1892 Homestead strike, in which Carnegie's hired Pinkerton guards fired on the striking miners in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Others considered it vulgar for Carnegie to immortalize himself by building libraries with his name on them all across the land.

The "robber baron" feeling was so prevalent in Kansas ninety years ago that almost as many people opposed receiving Carnegie libraries as were in favor of the grants. In Frankfort and Atchison the offer had to be refused because those cities simply could not or would not provide the amount of the annual budget. Atchison turned down a twenty-five-thousand-dollar offer in 1901, believing the money to be "tainted." The same sentiment was uttered in Goodland by one E. F Mercer, who spoke out bitterly against the building: "Carnegie's money was tainted [and he was] the foe of the working man."

Even harsher words were used in Pittsburg -- coal country -- where both miners and the Pittsburg Kansan editor were violently opposed to accepting a gift from Carnegie. After the building opened, the editor wrote: "[The money] was gathered in the blood and tears of the Homestead strike, where children starved, women wept and workmen were shot to death on the doorsteps of the shacks they had been driven from by Pinkerton's hired butchers. The editor of the KANSAN is not in favor today, nor any other day, of holding out clamorous hands for any of this tear-rusted blood-stained gold for library buildings."

Yes, Phil Knight donated substantial sums to the University of Oregon for non sports construction such as the major renovation of the "Knight" Library and construction of the "Knight" Law School Building named for his father.

Dwight Jaynes of the Portland Tribune has an good article on Phil Knight that's titled "Accept Phil Knight and the Strings." (click on the title for a link)