Franklin & Marshall College Establishes Revolutionary New Educational Program, Thanks to Generous Gift By Alumnus

Franklin & Marshall College has introduced a radical new program that is designed to help students develop the characteristics that are most often associated with success. The program, called the Mehlman Talent Initiative, is funded by Ken Mehlman, who earned his B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College in 1988.

Throughout his many years as a successful businessman, Mehlman has found that grit is the number one attribute that all successful people have in common. And he’s not alone in this theory.

An article published in The Muse lists “resilience” as the number one quality that all successful people have in common. Even Business Insider credits “persistence” as a collective trait that the world’s most successful people share.

But how does one teach the qualities of resilience and persistence (commonly referred to as “grit”)? That’s what Mehlman is trying to figure out.

The entire focus of the Mehlman Talent Initiative involves studying the ways in which high-achieving, disadvantaged students have overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges. These challenges range from poverty to disability to illness and even discrimination.

“At a time of increased global competition, accelerating technological evolution, and rapidly shifting business, political, and social environments, resilience and the ability to rebound and reinvent are critical,” Mehlman stated. “Young men and women who have already overcome adversity bring different life experiences and are well positioned for 21st century success, but they need practical tools to flourish. This initiative will support these students and provide a framework for the rest of us to learn from them.”

Daniel R. Porterfield, president of Franklin & Marshall College, couldn’t be more excited about the program. He praised Mr. Mehlman’s dedication to the project, and even likened it to an empowerment program.

“As a Trustee, Ken Mehlman has been deeply involved in our collective decision-making to pursue an expanded financial aid strategy for talented students that has reshaped the College dramatically in the past decade, making an F&M education available to many more first-generation, lower- and middle-income students from all across the country,” Porterfield stated. “With this tremendous gift—half of which is dedicated to financial aid—he further enables the College to cultivate the greatness of high-achieving students so that they will be empowered to achieve big goals in their lives and make disproportionately positive contributions to society. The Mehlman Talent Initiative will continue to make F&M a stronger school and help us create an even stronger community, and we are immensely appreciative of Ken’s support.”


Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Brings Former Obama Adviser On Board

Mark Zuckerberg is incredibly wealthy, which is why he and his wife Priscilla Chan have started a foundation to give a lot of that wealth away to help others. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is the organization that the Facebook CEO is using to give away 99% of his wealth, which is going to require a lot of organization.

Luckily, they’ve just brought David Plouffe on board, who ran President Obama’s 2008 election campaign. Plouffe joins Ken Mehlman, who worked as a campaign manager for George W. Bush.

At the Initiative, Plouffe will be in charge of policy and advocacy, while Mehlman will be in charge of the policy advisory board. They’ve worked together in the past on things like marriage equality (despite coming from different sides of the political isle) so it stands to reason that the Initiative will be able to put its money to good use.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative certainly has a lot of resources, but at a certain scale that can be daunting, especially since it’s a foundation intent on helping other nonprofits pursue their missions. It’s possible, with such a group, to spread those resources too thin and try to throw money at every problem. But solid leadership can help prevent that.

It will be interesting to see how these two individuals, among others, steer the resources they’ve been granted. Chan and Zuckerberg have expressed interest in improving education and curing diseases, which is itself a pretty broad mandate for the Initiative, which is precisely why it needs strong leadership.

And on top of that, it’s been a rough time for foundations named after wealthy people, with both the Trump Foundation and the Eric Trump Foundation coming under fire for a myriad of reasons. It will be up to the Initiative’s leadership to ensure that they don’t embarrass themselves, and that the huge amount of wealth they’ve been trusted with actually goes to it’s intended recipients.

Image courtesy of Corey Harris at Flickr Creative Commons. 


Is Mount Sinai’s Merge with Continuum a Cause for Concern?

IMG: via Mount Sinai Hospital

Earlier this month, the official merger of Mount Sinai Medical Center and Continuum Health Partners was finalized, resulting in the newly formed Mount Sinai Health System. This medical network is now the largest in New York City; Continuum’s community-oriented hospitals include Beth Israel Medical Center, Roosevelt Hospital, St. Luke’s, as well as the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, which have all merged with Mount Sinai.

Kenneth Davis, President and CEO of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, explained, “If you live in Manhattan, there will almost always be a Health System doctor within walking distance of your residence, as well as a substantial presence of our physicians and facilities in Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island,” in a recent statement about the impact of the merge. Now more than ever, the prestigious health services offered by Mount Sinai have the potential to be more accessible to many NYC residents.

Crain’s New York Business reports that the new system has 3,571 licensed beds, 138 operating rooms, 177,000 annual inpatient admissions, 2.6 million annual outpatient visits and about 35,000 employees. Despite its size, many are speculating that the layoff of employees is imminent, as consolidation is often a result of similar mergers. Mount Sinai Health System hasn’t released a statement yet about any layoffs, but unions are already expressing concern.

Mount Sinai is an institution that is renowned for its patient care, advanced medical services, and commitment to education and the future of medicine. The medical center has experienced immense generosity from trustees throughout its history, a list of passionate philanthropists including Ken Mehlman, Gail and Carl Icahn whose charitable donations made the Icahn School of Medicine possible, Glenn R. Dubin, Henry R. Kravis, and many, many others that have helped shape Mount Sinai into the prominent institution that it is. Many fear that the merger will effect services provided by the hospital, and displace many of the dedicated employees and trustees that have worked tirelessly to maintain Mount Sinai’s prestigious reputation.

Only time will tell if the merger will adversely impact the services provided by the newly formed Mount Sinai Health System, although its history of excellence is an indication of a strong future as a greater medical network.

Organizations Resources

USHMM Gets Two New Council Members


The United States Holocaust Memorial Council got two new council members in August this year, both appointed by President Barack Obama: S. Fitzgerald Haney and Beth Heifetz. President Obama spoke highly of the two, saying, “I am grateful these accomplished individuals have agreed to join this Administration, and I’m confident they will serve ably in these important roles. I look forward to working with them in the coming months and years.”

S. Fitzgerald Haney and Beth Heifetz find themselves in impressive company; Elie Weisel is on the same council, as is U.S. Senator Al Franken. The council is made up of 55 members, which are appointed by the President for five-year terms. There are five members each from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as three ex-officio members from the Departments of Education, Interior, and State. The appointments are set on a rotation, so that 11 members are cycled out each year.

“The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study, and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust,” reads the USHMM’s website.

In 1979, the idea of a living memorial to the victims of the Holocaust was born from the President’s Commission on the Holocaust. Fourteen years later, in 1993, the USHMM opened. Separate from the US Holocaust Memorial Council, there is also a “Committee on Conscience,” which keeps the nation’s conscience in check by confronting any issues of human genocide throughout the world. The goal is to stop crimes against humanity from occurring.

The Committee on Conscience is headed by Chairman Michael Chertoff, and members of the committee include conservative gay rights activist Ken Mehlman, neoconservative American diplomat and lawyer Elliott Abrams, and 2011 Women for Women UK honoree Todd Fisher, among others.

The USHMM isn’t just a memorial—it’s an educational institution that reminds the world and our country where we have been, where we are now, and where we never want to go again. Its presence will help insure that “such a totally inhumane assault as the Holocaust—or any partial version thereof—never recurs.”


Robin Hood Foundation- New York Anti-Poverty

robin hood foundation
IMG: via

New York City is filled with organizations that are working to help combat poverty, but one of the best, and the most awesomely named, is the Robin Hood Foundation.  Founded more than 20 years ago, the foundation works with some of the most innovative thinkers and thought leader, including financiers like Goldman Sachs Group CEO Lloyd Blankfein or KKR’s Kenneth Mehlman.

The Robin Hood Foundation partners with innovative organizations in the New York area in order to help control and wipe out poverty. The Foundation is committed to affecting all pieces of the poverty puzzle, including chronic illnesses, education, and homelessness.

Read our full profile on the Robin Hood Foundation here.

Organizations Resources

Five Influential People of 2012

Jane Lynch
IMG: s_bukley /

2012 has been a year full of influential people doing good in the world, and we’re proud to add five people to our list. These five people have made a world of difference this year, and we expect they will continue to do so for years to come:

  1. Salman Khan didn’t start out with an idea of changing the world. In fact, he just wanted to help his cousin with math. Separated by distance, he solved the problem by creating online lectures on math, science, and other complex subjects. As of today, he has created over 3,000 lessons. Now called KhanAcademy, his lessons offer a free education to students everywhere.
  2. Ken Mehlman was one of the strongest forces on the side of LGBT equality this year, giving serious momentum to the marriage equality initiatives in four states. He’s also been a strong advocate for LGBT rights and has worked to recruit fellow Republicans to the cause. Most recently, Mehlman launced Project Right Side, which is working actively to gain more conservative support for marriage equality.  We previously covered Ken Mehlman as one of our philanthropic people profiles.
  3. Ben Rattray helped launch, which encourages people to tell their stories and create change. The project will likely extend to other countries soon, making it possible for individuals to literally change the world.
  4. Maryam Durani of southern Afghanistan runs a radio station dedicated to women’s issues—a dangerous plight in that part of the world. Besides being awarded an International Women of Courage award by Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, Durani has also survived several attempts on her life by those who wish her message to be cut short.
  5. Jane Lynch is an American actress who has used her fame as leverage to fight for a worthy cause. Openly gay, she wants others to know that it’s okay to be gay. In 2012, Lynch publicly wed her longtime partner Lara Embry.

Prominent People in Philanthropy: Ken Mehlman

Ken Mehlman
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Sometimes to change things in politics you need to have access to an insider, someone who believes in your cause and who knows how to get things done.  In order to cover all aspects of philanthropy more effectively we are profiling prominent individuals in philanthropy.

Ken Mehlman understands politics. So when the New York state legislature was debating whether or not to pass a same-sex marriage law in New York he knew what needed to be done.

The issue is an important one to Kenneth Mehlman as he’s been an active advocate for LGBT equality ever since he came out in the Atlantic in 2010. Since then, he’s helped to raise almost $3 million for marriage equality campaigns in New York, Maryland, New Hampshire and Washington State.

Click here to read Ken Mehlman’s entire profile.