Endowments Grow From Chalkboards to the Sidelines

Ann McClure's picture

Joel Smilow, a former chairman and chief executive of Playtex, is a philanthropist whose name is attached to hospitals, Boys and Girls Clubs, and buildings at Yale, his alma mater.

But for Smilow, whose college athletics career did not progress beyond intramurals, perhaps the most unusual outcome of his benevolence is a permanent link to the Bulldogs football team. In 1988, he gave $1 million to endow Yale’s coaching position. Future coaches would forever be the Joel E. Smilow ’54 Head Coach of Yale Football. The title does not exactly flow, but the money from the endowment does.

“The athletic director has jokingly referred to me as the owner of the Yale football team,” Smilow said.

Seven of the Ivy League’s eight football coaching jobs are endowed, along with numerous positions in other sports. The premise is that these coaches are also teachers, part of the academic fabric of their institutions.

Read more