Through both personal donations and giving through the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation, Viacom and CBS Corporation Chairman and philanthropist Sumner M. Redstone has contributed more than $150 million over the last several years to a myriad of causes, ranging from the eradication of poverty around the world, to innovative medical research and education.
Mr. Redstone’s giving has reached all corners of the globe, from Los Angeles’ inner cities to Siem Reap, Cambodia, and as his list of supported causes and contributions grows, his Foundation today launched a home online. The new site, www.sumnermredstonefoundation.org, outlines the Foundation’s goals for interested organizations, and articulates its areas of focus.
Today Mr. Redstone will be honored at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for his recent gift of $10 million, which, in line with his career in entertainment, will fund a state-of-the-art student production facility and do its part to support a new generation of media makers.
In advance of today’s ceremony, we spoke to Mr. Redstone about his philanthropic efforts, goals for the Foundation, and his passion for helping others.
How did you initially get involved with charity work, and how did the Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation start?
SMR: It gives me great pleasure to give. I don’t even consider it charity to do good. The Foundation started a long, long time ago. For many years, much of my giving was private. But I decided that it made sense to centralize most of my charitable efforts in a Foundation.
What impact are you most proud of making through your philanthropic efforts?
SMR: The work of Children’s Cambodian Fund and Global Poverty Project are among my favorites. CCF used my initial gift to build a rescue center for the children of Phnom Penh – children in desperate circumstances who literally were living in garbage dumps. I wanted to do what I could to help them. I have made subsequent donations and am proud to have helped provide education and health care services that have improved their lives. GPP’s another favorite. I like to think that I have been bold in my career, and I admire this visionary organization that is dedicated to fighting poverty and eradicating polio all over the world – a devastating disease for children, their families, and society in too many countries. It’s a big goal, but I’m happy to help them achieve it.
I’m particularly passionate about the fight against poverty. But that’s not my only focus. I also support healthcare and research projects, such as the groundbreaking work of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Keck School of Medicine at USC, where Dr. [David] Agus [renowned oncologist, author of “The End of Illness”] is working to find cancer treatments and cures.
What are your goals for the SMR Charitable Foundation in 2013?
SMR: I want to keep doing what I’m doing. As long as there are people that need my help, I’ll be there for them.
You have been a champion of Viacommunity Day [Viacom’s annual, company-wide day dedicated to community volunteerism] – what was the initial vision for the company’s day of giving back?
SMR: My original family business, National Amusements, was truly a local business with theaters in communities all over America and now the world. So community service was always a central part of what we did. And that’s true at Viacom. Our initial vision for the day was to bring our employees closer to the communities where we work and live, and to help people where we could. Now, with employees participating around the globe, and volunteering throughout the year, it gives me great pleasure to see how under Philippe’s leadership, and the caring and commitment of the entire Viacom team, that vision has taken hold and grown. The spirit of Viacommunity and that commitment to giving back is one of the reasons Viacom is such a great company and why I am so proud of all my colleagues.
Under your leadership, Viacom has been active in promoting mentoring. If you were my mentor, what would be your best advice to me?
SMR: My best advice to you, Daina, is to remember that doing for others always makes you feel good about yourself. So, do all you can, give all you can and live every day with passion. I’ll send you a copy of my book, “A Passion To Win.” I think you’ll like it.