by Larry Smith
GOVERNOR'S HARBOUR, Eleuthera - What is described as "the biggest fundraising drive in history" was launched last year by Wall Street financier Warren Buffet and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. They have roped in scores of the wealthiest families in America for a long-term, charitable project of unprecedented scope.
Buffett and Gates have asked America's super rich to publicly commit to give away at least half of their fortunes within their lifetimes or after their deaths, in their own ways. The pledge stemmed from a series of meetings the two men held with key billionaires in 2009 to consider the effects of the recession on philanthropy.
Those who have stepped up to the plate so far include New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dominos Pizza founder Tom Monaghan, software mogul Larry Ellison, hotelier Barron Hilton, banker David Rockefeller, eBay founder Jeff Skoll, Steve Case of AOL, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, and CNN founder Ted Turner.
Also on the list is Shelby White, who has spent part of every winter over the last 30-plus years in Governor's Harbour. She first came to Eleuthera in the early 1970s to attend a wedding reception with her then boyfriend Leon Levy, co-founder of the Oppenheimer mutual fund. Levy has been described by Forbes magazine as a “Wall Street investment genius and prolific philanthropist”.
"Leon and I married in 1983 and we bought this house on Banks Road a couple years later," she told me last week over a glass of wine, following the gala opening of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve just down the road. "We loved the simplicity of life here, the people, and the beauty of the landscape."