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We Mourn the Passing of a Dear Friend, Colleague, and Community Leader Who Changed the Way Silicon Valley Thinks About Giving

August 22, 2016

PALO ALTO, August 22, 2016—The Skoll Foundation community is heartbroken to have lost our brilliant colleague and founding member of our Board of Directors, Peter Hero, to cancer yesterday.

Peter was a leader in the Silicon Valley social change world for more than 30 years—15 of them as the pioneering president of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Between 1989 and 2006, he grew the Foundation’s total charitable assets from under $9 million to more than $1.2 billion.

As Jeff Skoll’s first partner in philanthropy, Peter also played an indispensable role in helping to grow the Skoll Foundation from its seed stage with a gift of $10 million, to its role today: the largest foundation focused on social entrepreneurs solving the world’s most pressing problems.

“Peter will forever be my hero and original philanthropic mentor,” said Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman of the Jeff Skoll Group, Skoll Foundation, Skoll Global Threats Fund, Participant Media, and Capricorn Investment Group.

“He brought me to my first philanthropic gatherings, including Silicon Valley Community Foundation events where I met Bill Gates, Bill Gates Sr., and Bill Strickland. He also introduced me to Steve Kirsch—the first to advise me to start my own foundation—and to Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, who had a lot of new ideas about philanthropy. I remember one of those ideas, the Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, and all Peter did to make that work.”

In November 2000, Fortune Magazine writer Peter Elkind wrote: “[I]t is Peter Hero, more than anyone else, who has shown Silicon Valley how to give…by channeling the area’s distinctive culture into an unusual brand of charity: demanding, ambitious, self-conscious, creative, even risky—in short, everything you’d expect from Silicon Valley. And it’s posting big returns.”

In that piece, “The Man Who Sold Silicon Valley on Giving in the Land of the ‘Cyber-Stingy’,” Elkind observed that for Hero it was “all just one more way to harness the astounding wealth of Silicon Valley. And that’s what is truly urgent—creating a community where the arts can flourish, middle-class people can afford a home, and the poor can live in dignity.” To make that happen, said Hero, “we need to create a culture where philanthropy becomes a way of life in Silicon Valley.”

Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation, reflected: “Peter liked to say that Silicon Valley isn’t attracted to problems, it’s attracted to solutions. And no one saw those solutions—what our friend John Gardner called ‘breathtaking opportunities disguised as insoluble problems’—more clearly than Peter.”

“It was Peter who encouraged Jeff’s ‘crazy’ idea to seed the eBay Foundation with pre-IPO stock. It was Peter who was as great a mentor and friend to the Valley’s grassroots leaders as he was to its most successful investors and entrepreneurs,” said Osberg.

Osberg continued: “As one of those non-profit leaders who Peter befriended over the years—from the time I was with the Children’s Discovery Museum through to today, when we have all been blessed by Peter’s continuous service on the Skoll Foundation Board of Directors—I am flooded with memories and overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for the more than 30 years I knew and loved Peter.”

In the days and weeks to come, we will celebrate Peter’s life and legacy, and along with his family and large global community of colleagues, friends, and admirers, will share details so that those who wish to participate will be able to do so.



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