Part of Charles Koch’s sizable fortune goes to several universities each year in the United States, but none gets more significant backing than George Mason, a conservative public school in the nation’s capital. Koch gave $48 million to the school between fiscal years 2011-2014, representing the highest amount by far the billionaire has given to any school.
George Mason has been known in more recent years for being a center for libertarian and conservative thought; its Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies focus on free market ideology and graduate students who end up working on Capitol Hill. Koch gives regularly to the Institute for Humane Studies and donated approximately a third of Mason’s total private donations in fiscal year 2013.
Some see this as one of the key reasons the school has become well-known as a hive of conservative ideology; Koch is a well-known Republican who, due to his status as 6th wealthiest person in the world, has quite a bit of personal influence. There are some who view this philanthropy as potentially problematic, since many George Mason graduates end up influencing public policy. There are others, including prominent Democrats like Senator Chap Peterson, who believe that using one’s wealth to further intellectual policy objectives is no problem whatsoever.
Charles Koch grew up and currently lives in Wichita, Kansas, the grandson of Dutch immigrants. He inherited his father’s business and contributed to its immense growth. Koch Industries originally focused entirely on oil refining and chemicals but has expanded to polymers and fibers, fertilizers, minerals, and commodity trading. Koch was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was named as one of the most influential people of 2011 by Time magazine.