Eighteen years after he died, Bill Daniels’ impact still reverberates around New Mexico.
The Daniels Fund – established with more than $1 billion from the cable TV tycoon’s estate – has distributed more than $100 million worth of grants and scholarships in New Mexico, according to Linda Childears, its president and CEO.
That’s among the more than $750 million the private foundation has distributed since his 2000 passing.
“That is amazing to me,” said Childears, speaking to local business leaders Wednesday morning at the Albuquerque Economic Forum breakfast.
The fund concentrates its activity in the Western states where Daniels had strong connections: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. A Colorado native, Daniels attended the New Mexico Military Institute, and had significant business dealings in Wyoming and Utah.
The foundation devotes 30 percent of its allocations to scholarships; the remaining 70 percent helps fund various programs through grants.
Childears said Daniels wanted his money to support specific causes – from aiding those grappling with aging, disabilities, homelessness or drug and alcohol addiction to supporting amateur sports. But he also made education a priority, and Childears said that has grown into the fund’s primary focus in New Mexico. That emerged from conversations with local leaders about how the fund could address what they see as the state’s biggest issue: poverty.
“We talked to all kinds of folks and said, ‘We could continue to do a lot of small grants, but if we did bigger grants and we did grants focused on education that eventually addressed the poverty issue, would that be a better long-term use of the dough?’ And that’s what we have done,” Childears said.
She said the fund has contributed more than $1 million to Mission: Graduate, a multi-faceted program meant to boost postsecondary attainment, and $4 million to an initiative to develop more charter schools. Daniels was a “big fan” of charter schools and liked school vouchers, she said.