In 1969, he started the Perot Foundation, which became active in many philanthropic and civic areas. Mr. Perot’s philanthropic spirit – his instinct and passion for helping others – took many forms over the decades. He directly helped untold numbers of individuals in need, and he also aided even more people through his support of the work of important institutions whose activities have benefitted millions.
His largest and most frequent and varied institutional gifts were to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
His earliest major gift to UT Southwestern was in 1983, at the behest of his friend Ralph Rogers, to support diabetes research. The next year, when Mr. Rogers suggested another, even larger donation, Mr. Perot responded, "UT Southwestern is only 40 years old. Show me national evidence that UT Southwestern has become a world-class institution like Harvard or Stanford, and I will consider another gift."
Then, in October, 1985, he saw a front page headline in The New York Times about two Dallas researchers winning the Nobel Prize in medicine. True to his word, Mr. Perot went into action. Believing that prize-winning scientists should be celebrated locally in the same way as champion athletes, he organized and underwrote a ceremony in early 1986 to honor its new Nobel laureates, Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Joseph Goldstein.
Later, he committed multi-year funds to support their work and that of others, including providing a record number of "full-ride" scholarships with attractive stipends to recruit talented young students to the school's new "Medical Scientist Training Program."
Mr. Perot’s initial 10-year commitment in 1987 was the first eight-figure gift in the history of any Texas medical school and proved so successful that he and his foundation regularly extended the commitment.
"This is an investment in people and in intellect that will bring enormous rewards in the years to come," he said. "These funds will help train young scientists who might well make important medical breakthroughs in the future, just as their mentors are doing now."
The Perot family also has made major contributions for the construction and furnishing of UT Southwestern’s hospitals, and they have regularly supported UT Southwestern programs indirectly through donations to related entities.
In 2019, Dr. Daniel Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern, announced that the Perot Foundation pledged another large, multiyear gift to help support the school’s brain science research programs. That contribution established the Perot Foundation Neuroscience Translational Research Center. Doctors and scientists in the Perot Center will conduct research protocols and clinical trials to discover new and improved therapies for multiple types of neurological and brain disorders.
Each year since 1969, Mr. Perot supported the Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America with donations to the "Scoutreach" inner-city scouting program and by underwriting the cost of Eagle Scouts kits for every scout who achieved the rank that year.
He also supported the Tejas Girl Scout Council since his first gift in 1968 to establish Camp Bette Perot in Palestine, Texas, recognizing his sister’s lifelong commitment to the Girl Scouts. Many gifts in her honor have followed throughout the years, most recently a gift to the STEM-focused Camp Whispering Cedars near downtown Dallas.
Focusing on Health Care
Mr. Perot also supported other universities, including gifts to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio new biotechnology research center and to University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to create the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy and the Center for Targeted Therapy, speeding up genome mapping research to improve cancer treatments.
Other significant health care-related philanthropy in North Texas has included support for the Margot Perot Center for Women and Infants at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and Plano; the Parkland Burn Unit, one of the largest civilian burn units in the nation; the Comprehensive Breast Center at Parkland; and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, which specializes in the treatment of orthopedic conditions.
In addition to his POW efforts, Mr. Perot supported the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College as well as numerous military memorials and museums around the country.
Mr. Perot also made donations instrumental in opening the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall, named for his colleague and former EDS president, in the Dallas Arts District. He supported the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Opera, the Dallas Arboretum and the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Family donations also helped create the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas.
Mr. Meyerson often told the story of how, in the fall of 1984, when the symphony hall project was threatened by soaring costs and sluggish fundraising, he approached his boss about making a sizable donation.
As recounted by The Dallas Morning News, such a large gift would give Mr. Perot the right to name the new center. He agreed to make the donation but said the recognition should go to Mr. Meyerson, who balked at that idea.
"I said, ‘Ross, I’m embarrassed,’" Mr. Meyerson told the paper. "You should name it for the family."
"He said, ‘Do you want the money or don’t you?’"
Mr. Perot was a generous supporter of his church, the Highland Park Presbyterian Church, and community organizations, such as the North Texas Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the United Way, Planned Parenthood and others. Among them: the St. Philip’s School and Community Center’s food pantry, the Bridge Homeless Recovery Shelter, Family Gateway for children and families affected by homelessness and the Family Place for victims of family violence.