June 20, 2010 / 4:03 AM / 9 years ago

Investment guru Lynch funds US education initiative

* Lynch donating $20 million

* Initiative aimed at school principals

By Ros Krasny and Svea Herbst-Bayliss

BOSTON, June 20 (Reuters) - Legendary investor Peter Lynch is donating $20 million to train school principals in Boston, making him the latest in a growing list of high net worth individuals to publicly champion philanthropy.

Last week, Microsoft (MSFT.O) founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N) the two wealthiest Americans, said they were asking hundreds of U.S. billionaires to give away at least 50 percent of their wealth.

Lynch’s fortune is considerably more modest — at an estimated $350 million — but he shares the belief that the wealthy should give back.

“The people who have been luckier than others should give away a lot of money,” Lynch said in an interview.

Lynch, 66, made his fortune running Fidelity Investments’ Magellan Fund. Between 1977 and 1990, when he resigned as a fund manager, the fund grew to Fidelity’s flagship, with more than $14 billion in assets, from a mere $20 million, and averaged a 29.2-percent annual return.

Lynch, now vice chairman of Fidelity Management and Research Co.,and his wife, Carolyn, have long funded educational initiatives through the Lynch Foundation, their philanthropic organization.

The new initiative, at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, will be the first to give specific training to principals as a way to raise overall educational attainment.

“We’re focused on giving people a good start. Education in the early grades seems to have the greatest payback,” Lynch said. Falling rates of U.S. high-school graduation is “a national cancer,” he added.

Carolyn Lynch, whose father was an educator and principal, said many teachers go from the classroom to the principal’s office without specific guidance or training.

To address the skills that today’s principals need, faculty will be drawn from several of Boston College’s disciplines, including the schools of management, ethics and leadership, law, social work and nursing.

Fellows will be selected from Boston’s 135 public schools, 16 charter schools and 135 parochial schools.

Lynch said he hoped the Boston project could become a national model.

“Maybe there could be 10 of these, maybe 20, maybe 50,” he said. “Maybe someone will do something like this in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit.”

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