Bill Stone injected money into Evansville’s medical sector to revitalize its downtown area and create new jobs. He hopes other small-town philanthropists will follow his example.
By John Hyatt
Bill Stone has lived in Naples, Florida, since 2012, and before that in Connecticut from 1979 to 2011, but he doesn’t want anyone to know where he’s from: Evansville, a mid-sized town in southern ‘Indiana nestled against the Ohio River, across from Kentucky.
“One of the things I admire about people is when they know who they are and where they’re from,” Stone said in a recent Google Hangouts video interview. “I don’t look up to successful people who come from small towns, and I don’t want to act like they’re from there. I find that dishonest.”
Stone, 67, did well after leaving Evansville in 1974. He studied business and accounting at Marquette University, then rose through the ranks at major accounting firm KPMG. In 1986, Stone founded SS&C Technologies, a publicly traded financial software company which he still leads as CEO. Stone is worth around $2.1 billion, thanks to his 12.3% stake in the publicly traded SS&C.
As Stone’s fortune grew, Evansville shrank. The city’s population – 140,000 in 1970 – was 116,000 last year. The city’s proximity to the 3,300-foot-wide Ohio River made it a regional manufacturing center for most of the 20th century, but it was affected by the relocation of factory jobs overseas and young university graduates moved to big cities to work. Downtown Evansville remains a gathering place for big events, like the annual 4th of July fireworks display in the city’s waterfront park, but year-round commercial activity is no longer what ‘she was.
Reversing that trend — or at least contributing to it — has become a pet project for Stone and his wife Mary, two high school sweethearts from Reitz Memorial on the east side of Evansville. Stone, who was captain of his high school football team, has donated more than $50 million over the past five years to downtown Evansville’s medical research and health sectors. He wants to revitalize downtown and make Evansville a national leader in youth psychiatric research.
“If you go to any major city in the country, you’ll see that medicine and health care is a big part of what made this city,” Stone says. “We’re trying to make Evansville more sustainable,” he adds, rather than giving the town “a bang for the buck.”
Stone’s campaign began in 2018, when he donated $15 million to the Health Science Center (now called the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences), a 145,000 square foot facility shared by the University of Evansville, L University of Southern Indiana and the Indiana University School of Medicine. Stone’s money was divided among the three schools to expand their own academic programs: the University of Evansville developed its physician assistant and physical therapy degrees; the University of Southern Indiana expanded its occupational therapy and nursing capabilities; and Indiana University School of Medicine created an all-new residency program for graduates of IU Medical School in Evansville.
“If you get a medical center and start training students, [most] of those graduates stay in the area,” says Stone, who also donated $2.4 million in 2018 to build a special play area designed for children with sensory processing disorders at St. Vincent’s Hospital. Evansville. “You’re creating a magnet for bright young people to come to Evansville and become doctors and nurses, and you’ve really created an engine for growth.”
Stone pledged its biggest donation last year: $34.2 million, 20% of which was prepaid, to establish the Mary O’Daniel Stone and Bill Stone Center for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which is housed, although course, in the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences. . The center named its director (a freshman from the University of Texas) earlier this year. Now he is hiring additional teachers and practicing psychiatrists to work with local youth with bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses.
Stone’s donation also funds the Center’s ambitious Data Lakes research initiative, which plans to “dip into millions of patient records across the United States” to “identify the most effective and efficient therapies.” promising innovations” for childhood psychiatric disorders, according to Indiana University. .
Stone’s donations are “very strategic,” says Tara Barney, CEO of the Evansville Regional Economic Partnership, who has worked closely with Stone and universities to maximize the impact of her donations. “It’s been very clear that he wants to support our region where it can be transformational.”
In the case of Evansville, that means revitalizing the city’s downtown area, where the Stone Center is located. “A precursor to finalizing his investment in the medical school was making the decision to locate it downtown,” Barney says. “There’s still a lot more activity in what I call the suburban highway corridors in our community, and so this med school coming up was a powerful statement to say, we’re going to put more high-paying jobs and more economy-boosting initiatives in this downtown core.”
Stone hopes to supplement Evansville’s existing life sciences industry. Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca employs around 700 people in the city. Mead Johnson Nutrition, an infant formula maker owned by multinational consumer goods conglomerate Reckitt, also has a significant manufacturing and R&D presence there. “We have a large number of people who have a background in the biological sciences and all of the organic sciences,” Barney says, “so we’re well positioned to take advantage of that.”
The Evansville Regional Economic Partnership is still conducting a study into the impact of Stone’s donations, but Barney is encouraged by the preliminary results she’s seeing: “We’re having some early success in that residents who complete their training here stay in the greater area, and that’s obviously a huge addition to our economy.
Stone also brought jobs to Evansville as a businessman. In 2011, SS&C Technologies, headquartered in Windsor, Connecticut, opened an office in Evansville that now employs 220 people, including accountants, finance professionals, software engineers, HR managers and marketing teams. About a quarter of those employees moved there from other cities or states, Stone says. Yet that’s less than 1% of SS&C’s more than 24,000 employees at 100 sites in 40 countries.
Stone isn’t the first Hoosier to tackle his state’s demographic problem. Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana from 2005 to 2013, spoke often about Indiana’s brain drain problem during his tenure; in his new capacity as president of Purdue University, Daniels launched a “Brain Gain” program to entice Purdue alumni to return to Indiana. Population depletion issues have plagued Indiana and other Rust Belt states “since at least 1970”, according to Losing Our Minds: brain drain across the United States, a 2019 report by the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress. In this study, Indiana ranked 9th in terms of states with the highest gap between high-skilled leavers and stayers.
In Stone’s view, his activities in Evansville should be part of a larger movement among philanthropists and business leaders to increase capital flows throughout the country. Stone identifies the nation’s decline in state-owned enterprises — from about 5,500 in 2000 to about 4,000 in 2020, according to a McKinsey study — as a contributing factor to America’s geographic inequality. “Most small towns don’t have very well paid lawyers and accountants, so [companies] can’t be made public because you can’t do what the SEC wants,” he says. “It’s a stranglehold on capital formation in small towns.”
“I think wealth concentrated in a few cities in the United States is not a good thing,” adds Stone. “It’s better if the wealth is spread across the country.”
#Billionaire #Writes #Million #Love #Letter #Indiana #Hometown