What is enticing William Richardson away from the top spot at the Johns Hopkins University?
That's easy, according to Russell G. Mawby. "He's gotten himself the best job in the world."
Dr. Mawby should know. He's the man Dr. Richardson will succeed as president and chief executive officer of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the wealthy philanthropy created by the cereal magnate.
The difference between Dr. Richardson's current job and his new one is as vast as the distinction between giving and receiving.
Come August when he assumes his new duties, Dr. Richardson will no longer be a supplicant, a university president toiling to bolster his school's endowment. Instead, he will direct the doling out of hundreds of millions of dollars a year for good works performed around the world.
Few men or women at any time or at any place will control so much largess.
Along with the Ford Foundation and the J. Paul Getty Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, which reports its current assets as $5.3 billion, ranks among the big three philanthropies. (They frequently change positions in the rankings depending on the performance of their investments on any given day.)
Last year, Kellogg, which is located in Battle Creek, Mich., gave out $264 million, and it now has 2,700 active grant recipients.
Dr. Mawby said Kellogg grants tend to be confined to four general areas: education, agriculture, environment and health care. They are also limited geographically to the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean and southern Africa.
Dr. Mawby, who has headed the foundation for 25 years, says Kellogg grants are generally not for basic research but are intended to be practical and "action-oriented." As an example, he mentioned Kellogg's financial support for the clinical training of doctors to help address the nation's shortage of primary care doctors.
Similarly, Dr. Mawby said, Kellogg recently gave Johns Hopkins University $1 million grant to improve the delivery of health care services to poor communities. Johns Hopkins has been a recipient of Kellogg money since the 1940s.
The foundation was created in 1930 by W. K. Kellogg, a one-time broom salesman who turned an interest in health foods into one of the nation's leading cereal companies. A shy, retiring man, Mr. Kellogg dedicating the foundation to the "health, happiness and welfare of mankind." One of the inspirations for the foundation was his difficulty in getting medical treatment for a dying grandson.
Eventually, Mr. Kellogg, who died in 1951, donated $66 million -- most of it in W. K. Kellogg Co. stock -- to the foundation.
Since its inception, the foundation has made more than $2 billion in grants. It now employs about 250 people.
Dr. Mawby, who will remain on the board of trustees, said that Dr. Richardson, who was chosen from among 500 candidates, was not hired to change the foundation's direction.
"The board was concerned not with someone who would come in and fix a problem, because the foundation is in excellent shape financially and we have a superb staff," said Dr. Mawby. "We wanted someone who could come in and continue our mission."
If Dr. Richardson lives up to those expectations, said Dr. Mawby, he will have a most gratifying career. "This job provides an opportunity to make a difference in the human condition," said Dr. Mawby. "It is a privilege."