Two members of a Tulsa family known for its generosity have been singled out for a prestigious international honor- the Carnegie Medal.
One of the biggest honors in the field of charitable giving, it comes during what’s already a milestone year for the Schustermans, as they mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of Tulsa-based Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies.
Lynn Schusterman who was featured on the cover of an earlier edition of Lifestyles Magazine/Meaningful Influence said the Carnegie Medal is “a great, great honor” and makes her think of her late husband and foundation co-founder, Charles Schusterman, who mirrored Andrew Carnegie in many ways.
“That’s what makes the award so special,” she said. “They were both immigrants. Like Carnegie, Charlie believed education was vitally important. And he believed in helping people cross boundaries no matter the circumstances in which they were born.
“Also, it was his entrepreneurial spirit that really is what allows us to be here today in this position.”
Since launching the foundation in 1987, the Schustermans have given more than $2.15 billion through their philanthropy.
Carnegie officials highlighted some of their causes, noting that the Schustermans were selected “for advancing racial, gender, and economic equity through investments in areas such as K–12 education, democracy and voting rights, gender and reproductive equity, and criminal justice; and supporting Jewish communities and a secure, inclusive Israel.”
Stacy Schusterman, is current chair of the foundation, overseeing around $400 million in annual grantmaking.
Lynn Schusterman, who previously held that post, now serves as chair emerita.
The foundation has cast a wide net with its charitable efforts. But especially dear to the Schustermans are those that have directly benefited Tulsa.
Asked to name a few, they mentioned their longtime support of both Tulsa Community College and the north Tulsa community, along with several initiatives supporting low-income families. The latter, more recently, has included pandemic-related relief, such as funds set up to help prevent evictions and to support immigrants who did not qualify for COVID-19 assistance.
Education has always been a top priority for the Schustermans. And it’s on their minds right now more than ever, they said, with the opportunity the award brings to speak to current concerns.
While proud of advances the state has made in areas to which they have contributed, the future of public education in Oklahoma is troubling, the Schustermans said, especially given recent moves to limit instruction on race and to remove certain books from school libraries.
“As we receive this award, I’m reminded of what Carnegie tried to do for education and for libraries,” Lynn Schusterman said. “I feel like, in a way, Tulsa and Oklahoma are taking a step backwards as we try to improve everything that we’re focused on. I’m very, very concerned.”
Stacy Schusterman added: “We believe it’s important to learn history so we can learn from it, grow and improve. Something our foundation is very focused on nationally is trying to defend the rights of teachers to teach accurate history.”
Since it was introduced in 2001, over 65 philanthropists have been honored with the Carnegie Medal.
The Schustermans, the first mother and daughter to be recognized together, are part of a recipient class that spotlights female philanthropists. Four of this year’s recipients are women, and Carnegie officials say they hope it serves to inspire and motivate the next generation of female philanthropists.
Lynn Schusterman said she’s glad to see more women leading major foundations today.
When she took over her family’s foundation after her husband’s death, it was at a time when women were not taken seriously, but she fought successfully to have her voice heard.
She and her daughter said they hope by their own example to draw attention both to women’s philanthropic power and the “urgent need for all philanthropists to give much more generously toward women and girls.”
Past Carnegie Medal recipients include the Gates and Rockefeller families, Michael R. Bloomberg and George Lucas.
The goal of the award is to “inspire a culture of giving by honoring innovative philanthropists,” officials said.
“It is very exciting to be honored with so many role model families trying to make the world a better place,” Stacy Schusterman said.
“Our country and our world are facing significant and complex challenges. Philanthropy cannot solve them alone, but we have a responsibility to be a partner at the table.”