The Philanthropy of Wendy Schmidt -Spring 2008
by: Dan Fost
photography by: Penni Gladstone
Married to the CEO of Google, she is committed to using some of that wealth to benefit the world at large and the communities she lives in, whether it’s by investing in a local bookstore, buying property for a transit hub, or bringing back a beloved movie theater from the brink of destruction.
Wendy Schmidt sees the unusual coincidence.
The Internet puts incredible pressure on local businesses, like bookstores trying to fight against the Amazons of the online world, and movie theaters competing with the convenience of Netflix. The biggest Internet elephant of them all, Google Inc., disrupts any business that depends on advertising dollars, because it delivers readers and viewers in a much more efficient and targeted way.
Schmidt’s husband Eric is the chief executive officer of Google, one of three people calling the shots, and a man with a net worth estimated by Forbes last year at $6.2 billion. That wealth, in turn, has turned the Schmidts into philanthropists, and Wendy Schmidt is using it by both thinking globally and locally.
On a global scale, she runs something called the 11th Hour Project, an arm of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which is focused on global warming and climate change. In 2006, the most recent year for which it has released figures, the foundation gave roughly $6.7 million in grants, with the two largest going to environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Energy Foundation.
And on a local scale, Schmidt has turned her attention to Nantucket, this incredibly well-preserved, yet constantly threatened and changing island only 30 miles from the mainland. In the past year, the Schmidt Family Foundation bought the Island Spirits site downtown, hoping to let the town use it as a transportation hub, and Schmidt herself purchased the building housing Mitchell’s Book Corner, a beloved Main Street bookstore.
She is also part of a group of investors who bought the Dreamland Theatre, aiming to restore its movie screen and create a performing arts space. She’s now grouping those efforts under one umbrella, which she’s calling ReMain Nantucket.