Starting in 2011, when the oldest of their three children was about two years away from applying to college, the Shaw Family Endowment Fund donated $1 million annually to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford and at least $500,000 each to Columbia and Brown. The pattern persisted through 2017, the most recent year for which public filings are available, with a bump in giving to Columbia to $1 million a year in 2016 and 2017. The foundation, which lists Kobliner as president and Shaw as treasurer and secretary, has also contributed $200,000 annually to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 2013.
The total donations for “general” purposes across seven years and seven elite schools are $37.3 million, which represents 62% of the foundation’s giving over that period. At minimum, experts in higher-education fundraising say, Shaw and Kobliner’s strategy improved their children’s chances of getting into at least one of the country’s top universities. At best, it would allow them to choose whichever blue-chip school they preferred, making selecting a college as easy as ordering from a takeout menu.