Andrew Carnegie and his gifts to society

Of course everybody in the corporate world knows who Andrew Carnegie is. He doesn’t need an introduction.  He is one of the American financial titans and known as one of America’s “builders,” because his business helped to fuel the economy and shape the nation into what it is today. By 1889, Carnegie Steel Corporation was the largest of its kind in the world. He then sold the steel company earning more than $200 million and took a decision that would change his life. At the age of 65 , Andrew Carnegie decided to dedicate his time and efforts helping others. He had begun years earlier by building libraries because there were only a few public libraries in the world and Andrew Carnegie had the brilliant idea of opening as many libraries as he could. He and the Carnegie Corporation spent over $56 million to build 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world. Also, by making donations to many education related charity institutions. But at this age, Andrew Carnegie decided he was going to expand his efforts into the 20th century and try to help as much as he could in topics related to education and world peace. Andrew Carnegie was the first to state publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes and wrote “the gospel of wealth” where he stated that any personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one’s family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community. Also, Andrew Carnegie established many trust funds and contributed to society in amazing ways. Here are some of those gifts to society.

Andrew Carnegie_financia titan_patrick dwyer
Image courtesy of Ross G. Strachan at

In 1911 Andrew Carnegie established Carnegie Corporation of New York, which he dedicated to the “advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” It  was dedicated to the principles of “scientific philanthropy,” investing in the long-term progress of  society.  Carnegie himself was the first president of the Corporation. In the years of 1911 and 1912, Carnegie gave the Corporation $125 million, making it the largest single philanthropic trust ever established up to that time.

Another amazing donation was the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, founded in 1914 as The Church Peace Union dedicated to research and education in the field of ethics and international affairs.  Andrew Carnegie assembled a group of leaders in religion, academia, and politics and appointed them trustees of the organization where he hoped to make war obsolete or at least to find alternatives to armed conflicts.

A very important institution created by Andrew Carnegie was the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, founded in 1910 as a nonprofit organization to conduct programs of research, discussion, education and publication on international affairs related to peace through analysis and development of fresh policy ideas and direct engagement and collaboration with decision makers in government, business, and civil society

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is another jewel that Carnegie left for society. It was founded in 1905 as the teachers’ pension fund and is a private operating foundation primarily engaged in education policy studies and committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning. Some of its achievements are the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), publication of the Flexner Report on medical education, creation of the Carnegie Unit, founding of the Educational Testing Service, establishment of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, and introduction of ideas around the scholarship of teaching and learning.

One of the most notorious institutions that came from the brains of Andrew Carnegie was the Carnegie Mellon University, formed from the 1967 merger of Mellon Institute, a science research center founded by the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, and the Carnegie Institute of Technology, which was founded in 1900 and later became an independent university. The university has the spirit of education and world peace as it is well-known for innovation, for solving real-world problems and for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Hamerschlag Hall_Andrew carnegie
Image courtesy of Cam Miller at

The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland was established in 1901, for assistance to students, for expansion of the Scottish universities, and for stimulation of research. The Trust was funded by a gift of US$10 million, at a time where assistance for Scottish universities was not that very promising.  Since 1901 more than 100,000 grants have been awarded for research or in support of tuition fees and many students have benefited with their programs.

Andrew Carnegie deeply believed in the power of education for the people. He also believed in charity and  that rich business people should give back to their community. These two things combined made him one of the fathers of philanthropy and made his donations and funds very important for the construction of the American society in the education and research topics.



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