The Lord Foundation of Massachusetts, one of four existing foundations established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas Lord, has received $260 million, which will be distributed to MIT over time. The funds are part of the proceeds from the sale, finalized Oct. 29, of LORD Corporation, a global technology and manufacturing company headquartered in Cary, North Carolina, to Parker Hannifin Corporation.
The distribution to MIT will have a far-reaching impact because of both the magnitude of the funds and the flexibility allowed for their use. Each of the four Lord foundations was established to support a specific institution, and their general mandate is to support the advancement of education, research, science, and technology. MIT, which controls The Lord Foundation of Massachusetts, will be able to invest these dollars around the Institute to advance its mission of educating students and advancing knowledge in service to the nation and the world.
“Thomas Lord and his successors at LORD Corporation have pioneered a distinctive strategy for giving back to society,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Their generosity to all four institutions is remarkable. And the value of the distribution is magnified because it comes with great flexibility, giving institutions the nimbleness to seize opportunities and address needs that can be hard to cover through traditional philanthropy. We are tremendously grateful.”
Established in the 1920s, LORD Corporation was a privately held company focusing on noise and vibration control products, electromechanical innovations, automotive and aerospace applications, and chemical products such as specialty adhesives.
In 1982, LORD Corporation president Thomas Lord created a holding company for the corporation, now called Jura LLC, and established several foundations that after his death would hold major equity interests. Each foundation benefits a specific university or institution that was selected by Lord and his successor in leading LORD Corporation, Donald Alstadt. Today, four Lord foundations support MIT, Duke University, the University of Southern California, and the Cleveland Clinic.
In April 2019, a sale agreement was announced in which Parker Hannifin Corporation would acquire LORD Corporation, triggering the distribution of the proceeds to the four foundations. The assets of each foundation are held in perpetual trust, so their distribution to MIT is defined not as a gift but rather as a “distribution of funds.”
The distribution of more than $1 billion from the four foundations to their respective institutions, which is expected to be completed following required approvals, is believed to be one of the largest single allocations of its kind.
The Lord Foundation of Massachusetts has already provided MIT with approximately $34.4 million in funds since it began supporting MIT in 1986.
“Tom Lord and Don Alstadt were visionary stewards of the company they helmed and of the science and engineering enterprise,” says MIT Provost Martin Schmidt. “We have long been thankful that they selected MIT as one of the beneficiaries of their important legacy. Their foresight and generosity will now enable the Institute to invest even more deeply in its efforts to help solve the world’s great challenges through research, education, and innovation.”
Several MIT programs and departments have benefited annually from disbursements from The Lord Foundation. These include the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP); student fellowships in the PKG Center; the Thomas Lord Undergraduate Scholarships; and the Thomas Lord Career Development Professorship in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. It’s expected that the funds from the LORD Corporation sale will be used, in part, to continue the support of these longstanding recipients of annual Lord Foundation funding.
The foundation’s board will determine how to distribute the proceeds to MIT. Regarding possible uses for the remainder of the money, Schmidt notes, “The unrestricted nature of these funds gives us the opportunity to use them to invest in pressing needs that are often difficult to support through other means.”
“The Academic Council in its annual retreat in June discussed areas where MIT needs to invest over the long term to improve its competitiveness,” Schmidt adds. “Among the areas identified were support for graduate students and graduate research, investments to improve the health and well-being of our community, maintaining the physical plant, and accelerating our work to address climate change. I look forward to discussing with Academic Council how the Lord support might be best deployed toward these needs.”
That such investments are now possible is a testament to the vision and planning of Thomas Lord, according to Ed Auslander, LORD’s former president and CEO. “For 95 years, LORD Corporation transformed innovative ideas into materials and solutions to move every person in the world,” he says. “Consistent with Tom Lord’s deep-rooted values and social responsibility, he leaves a permanent mark on using knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit to solve technological challenges, making the impossible real.”