John M. Olin Foundation

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John M. Olin Foundation was an American grant-making foundation established in 1953 by John M. Olin, president of the Olin Industries chemical and munitions manufacturing businesses. Unlike most foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation was charged to spend all of its assets within a generation of Olin's death, for fear of mission drift over time and in order to preserve donor intent. It made its last grant in the summer of 2005 and officially disbanded on November 29, 2005, after having disbursed over $370 million in funding, primarily to conservative think tanks, media outlets, and law programs at influential universities. The Foundation is most notable for its early support and funding of the law and economics movement and the Federalist Society. "All in all, the Federalist Society has been one of the best investments the foundation ever made", wrote the Foundation to its trustees in 2003.[1]

History and purpose[edit]

The fund was largely inactive until 1969, when John M. Olin was disturbed by the Willard Straight Hall takeover at his alma mater, Cornell University. At the age of 80, he decided that he must pour his time and resources into preserving the free market system.

The Foundation is most notable for its early support and funding of the law and economics movement, a discipline that applies incentive-based thinking and cost-benefit analysis to the field of legal theory. Olin believed that law schools have a disproportionately large impact on society given their size and to this end decided to focus the majority of his funding there.

According to the official website, "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."[2]

William E. Simon served as president of the Foundation from 1977 until his death in 2000. He frequently discussed the foundation's commitment to supporting the "counter-intelligentsia". The Olin Foundation was formerly managed by Michael S. Joyce, who left to head the similar Bradley Foundation. James Piereson was the last executive director and secretary.

The foundation supported conservative thinkers such as Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute; Mac Donald is the John M. Olin Fellow at this New York City-based institution.[3] In 2005, following longstanding plans,[4] the foundation announced its final grants and closed its doors. The foundation closed in the same year as the Franklin W. Olin Foundation, which was established by John Olin's father, Franklin W. Olin. The Franklin W. Olin Foundation also shut down for donor intent reasons, but the two foundations were entirely independent and unrelated, except for the family connection of their founders.[5]

John Lott Controversy[edit]

The John M. Olin Foundation funded the John M. Olin Fellowship at University of Chicago. While serving as an Olin Fellow, Professor John Lott produced a study that argued that relaxing concealed weapons laws can reduce crime.[6] Controversy arose when Lott was unable to provide the raw survey data underlying the study. Lott claimed to have forgotten the names of the students who worked with him on the project, and that the original data had been destroyed in a hard drive failure.[7]

2005 Board of Directors[edit]

Partial list of grant recipients[edit]

Conservative think tanks[edit]


Among the many institutions to gain contributions from the foundation were:[8]

The John M. Olin Foundation has also given large amounts of money to conservative groups at prestigious colleges and universities, including the Federalist Society.


There are several dozen John M. Olin Professors at universities and law schools around the world, including:


Authors and researchers[edit]


  1. ^ John J. Miller. "A Federalist Solution". Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "Articles About Heather Mac Donald". New York Times. 2010-11-04. Retrieved 2010-11-04. Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Her latest book, co-written with Victor Davis Hanson and Steven Malanga, is "The Immigration Solution". 
  4. ^ Piereson, James (March–April 2002). "The Insider’s Guide to Spend Down: Switching off the lights at the Olin Foundation". Philanthropy. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Miller, John J. (2006). A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America. San Francisco: Encounter. 
  6. ^ John R. Lott, More guns, less crime: understanding crime and gun-control laws, 2d. ed. 124-125 (U. Chicago Press 2000)(Google Books)
  7. ^ Sanchez, Julian. "The Mystery of Mary Rosh". Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Schedule of Grants". Archived from the original on 8 March 2004. Retrieved 30 December 2014. 
  9. ^ "Law School program gets $3 million boost from John M. Olin Foundation". 2005-01-19. Retrieved 2010-05-14. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]