The John M. Olin Foundation, Inc. was established in 1953 by John Merrill Olin (1892-1982), inventor, industrialist, conservationist and philanthropist. Mr. Olin was committed to the preservation of the principles of political and economic liberty as they have been expressed in American thought, institutions and practice.
Accordingly, the general purpose of the John M. Olin Foundation is to provide support for projects that reflect or are intended to strengthen the economic, political and cultural institutions upon which the American heritage of constitutional government and private enterprise is based. The Foundation also seeks to promote a general understanding of these institutions by encouraging the thoughtful study of the connections between economic and political freedoms, and the cultural heritage that sustains them.
John Olin did not intend for his foundation to exist in perpetuity, but rather to close its doors by the time those trustees who best knew his philanthropic ideals had retired. Following the death in 2000 of William E. Simon, whom Mr. Olin had chosen in 1977 to be President of his Foundation, the Board of Trustees began to implement a plan to phase out the Foundation over the next few years.
The Foundation is scheduled to close its doors at the end of year.
I 'know' the Olin Foundation for its support of Bill Buckley's The Firing Line in the mid 80s. The foundation was always thanked for its support by a patrician female voice during the credits. What did the foundation do? According to John Miller:
Law and Economics: The John M. Olin Foundation has devoted more of its resources to studying how laws influence economic behavior than any other project. The law schools at Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, Virginia, and Yale all have law-and-economics programs named in honor of Olin...
The Federalist Society: It is impossible to say which grant in the history of the John M. Olin Foundation has mattered more than any other, but a strong candidate would be the foundation’s support for a 1982 conference of law students and professors that served as a springboard for the creation of the Federalist Society...
Allan Bloom and Dinesh D’Souza: No two men are more responsible for discrediting the academic Left than these best-selling authors. The foundation supplied Bloom with a grant that helped him write an article for National Review that became the basis of The Closing of the American Mind...D’Souza wrote his own groundbreaking book, Illiberal Education, as a John M. Olin Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute — and sparked the debate that helped turn the term “political correctness” into a familiar pejorative.
The Collegiate Network: The consortium of conservative college newspapers got its start in 1980, with a small grant [from] a group supported by the John M. Olin Foundation...Examples: Dartmouth Review, Harvard Salient, and Michigan Review.
“The end of history” vs. “The clash of civilizations”: The most important foreign-policy debate in the aftermath of the Cold War was born when Francis Fukuyama delivered his famous “end of history” lecture at Bloom’s Olin Center in Chicago...Fukuyama’s most prominent critic has been Samuel Huntington, the national-security expert who headed the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard.
According to James Piereson, JMOF's long-serving Executive Director:
“The conservative foundation movement that took shape in the 1970s thus seems to have run its course,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year. “The ground gained by conservative ideas in recent decades can be quickly lost if those ideas are not renewed and persistently articulated in public forums. This requires talent, energy — and money. ... [Conservative] principles must maintain a central place in the debates over our future — and a new generation of conservative philanthropists is needed to make sure that they do.”
[Compare to how this Foundation has run itself with the Pew Trusts which we wrote about here.]