INDIANAPOLIS—Robert L. Payton, an early leader in the movement to develop research about philanthropy and establish philanthropy as an academic field worthy of serious intellectual study, is being remembered for his pioneering leadership in the philanthropic sector.
Payton was the nation’s first full-time professor of Philanthropic Studies and the first full-time executive director of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. He continued to inspire by his example and to contribute to the scholarship of philanthropy as professor emeritus of Philanthropic Studies and senior research fellow at the Center throughout his life.
A devoted reader and scholar, Payton inspired the creation of the world-renowned Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library and the Philanthropy Archives at the University Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to aid philanthropy scholars and students and advance research.
“Bob Payton was a brilliant, humble giant in the philanthropic sector whose impact on philanthropy is immeasurable and will be indelible,” said Patrick M. Rooney, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy. “We are saddened by the loss of our friend, colleague and mentor but we celebrate his remarkable life well lived and his many lessons that we will carry with us.”
“Bob’s legacy, like his life, is rich and expansive. His legacy includes helping create the field of Philanthropic Studies, the hundreds of university courses and programs in philanthropy and nonprofit studies that now exist, and the enormous and burgeoning body of research about philanthropy and how to practice it effectively,” Rooney continued. “But the legacy of which he was most proud is the students he loved, challenged, taught and inspired. He changed their lives. They are now scholars teaching and researching in the field he helped establish and are compassionate, reflective professionals and volunteers leading social change around the world.”
A “public intellectual,” Payton dedicated his life to understanding and educating others about philanthropy. (His ideas can be found at www.paytonpapers.org.) He championed the importance of exploring philanthropy through the multifaceted perspective of the liberal arts and humanities. As president of Exxon Education Foundation, he encouraged the academic study of philanthropy. He urged the creation of college and university centers focused on philanthropy and provided an engaging vision for theory that informs practice and practice that informs theory, which remains at the heart of the Center on Philanthropy’s mission.
Payton was a catalyst and a tireless advocate for research about philanthropy and its role in society. He was the first chair of Independent Sector’s Research Committee, spearheading a group of researchers and nonprofit professionals whose charge was to measure and define the scope and scale of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector in the United States.
As executive director, Payton led development of the Center on Philanthropy as a premier institution for the study of philanthropy. Described by his students as a modern-day Cicero, he created the Jane Addams-Andrew Carnegie Fellowship Program and led the fellows in an immersive program of study. He helped develop and launch the world’s first Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies degree program at the Center.
Payton also ensured that future scholars and students would have access to invaluable resources.
“Bob was integral to the development of both the Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library and the Philanthropy Archives, in terms of his personal support and his influence on others who donated records, papers and funds,” said David Lewis, dean of the University Library at IUPUI.
“The library collections were always a part of his vision for the Philanthropic Studies program and that’s why we have the premier collection in the world in this field,” Lewis continued. “He was a wonderful broad thinker who inspired the creation of a one-of-a-kind resource that today fosters the work of a wide community of students, scholars and practitioners on our campus and across the globe”
Payton’s life and leadership were a testimony to the power of philanthropy, which he defined as “voluntary action for the public good.” From the earliest parts of his career through his final days, he devoted himself to serving others. His fascinating life included service as a journalist, a paratrooper in World War II, president of Hofstra University and C.W. Post College and serving as United States Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
Payton received numerous honors, including Independent Sector’s John W. Gardner Leadership Award, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s Distinguished Service to Education Award, and the Award for Distinguished Lifetime Achievement from the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). His alma mater, the University of Chicago, awarded him its Alumni Medal, and he received an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Indiana University, as well as several other honorary doctorates.
About the Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library and the Philanthropy Archives
The Joseph and Matthew Payton Philanthropic Studies Library prepares individuals for lives of service through a wide range of materials that inform the study and practice of philanthropy. The Philanthropy Archives contains primary, original source materials that document the world’s philanthropic tradition. Learn more at: http://ulib.iupui.edu/subjectareas/philanthropy
About the Center on Philanthropy
The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, a part of the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is a leading academic center dedicated to increasing the understanding of philanthropy and improving its practice worldwide through research, teaching, training and public affairs programs in philanthropy, fundraising, and management of nonprofit organizations. Learn more at http://www.philanthropy.iupui.edu.