Baltimore’s Biggest Philanthropists Reveal What Motivates Them

The Baltimore Sun  |  Jill Rosen

Baltimore is home to some generous souls. There are those who give time, others who share their ideas and plenty of people willing to open their wallets.

Over the years, a number of people have built reputations as philanthropists. Yet however publicly they give, their reasons for doing so are often strikingly personal. Here are a few of their stories:

Edward St. John

EdwardSt. John learned something about giving in college. When he was a senior, a freshman wanted his help campaigning to become class president. St. John worked hard and the kid was elected but never thanked him. “I became very aware right then that you should help people because you want to, not because you’re looking for thank-yous or accolades or anything else,” he says. “You do it because it’s the right thing.”

He started St. John Properties in 1971, a company that now manages real estate in Maryland and five other states, and created a foundation about 15 years ago, giving away 7.5 percent of the company’s net profit.

St. John, who’s 74, likes to put his money into education-related projects in the communities where he does business. One of his largest gifts was $10 million to the University of Maryland, his alma mater, to build a learning and teaching center on the College Park campus. The classroom building, which will be called the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center, is slated to be completed in 2016.

Over the years St. John has given more than $40 million to hundreds of schools. Baltimore’s Mount St. Joseph High School, Towson University, Severn School in Severna Park and McDonogh School in Owings Mills are just a few.

A lifelong science geek who almost became a pilot, an institution close to St. John’s heart is the Maryland Science Center, where he’s chairman of the board. There, life-size dinosaurs stalk Edward St. John Hall and people are surrounded by movies at the St. John Properties IMAXTheater.

“We all have the power to make a difference,” he says. “We have the choice to make it personal, create a legacy and be a role model. It’s probably the most important thing we do in our lives.”

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