Martin Morse Wooster died tragically in November from a hit-and-run accident. Martin was a free-market intellectual with a big portfolio of interests, many of which overlapped with mine, especially education and the environment.
Martin helped get this blog started. While he didn’t write articles (except for one), every day he would read the Washington Post and report on any article that touched on environmental issues. He did the same with higher education, sending George Leef and me news because of our affiliation with the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.
Martin once told me that it was his way of donating to organizations he liked. A mostly-freelance writer, he was not a wealthy man.
Tom Hazlett’s Reason article captures the breadth of his personality and interests. An additional interest that I recall was his affection for state fairs. One weekend he came from Washington DC to Raleigh specifically to visit the North Carolina State Fair; he gave a talk for a local organization to defray his expenses. Oh, and he always made sure we published his full name.
Martin’s greatest insights were in understanding philanthropy. He had a keen eye for philanthropic failures and knew the details of how so many organizations (the Rockefeller Foundation, Pew Trust, Ford Foundation, to name a few) violated (and still violate) the goals and concepts that motivated their creators. Today’s foundations generally disdain the capitalism that made the founders wealthy.
Martin wrote a wonderful paper, Games Universities Play, for the James G. Martin Center. Have a look. Providing a rich collection of examples, Martin describes ways that universities have violated donor intent. His latest book was How Great Philanthropists Failed & How You Can Succeed at Protecting Your Legacy.
If Martin had been writing material more palatable to the elites in this country (that is, endorsing the direction big nonprofits have taken), instead of criticizing them, he would probably be better known. But his work is available, and highly recommended.