Fred Swaniker Delivers the Inaugural Frederick Pardee Memorial Lecture

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The African Leadership Academy community gathered on September 20th to celebrate the life of philanthropist and investor Frederick S. Pardee, who was a generous benefactor to our institution. ALA co-founders Chris Bradford and Fred Swaniker shared how Mr. Pardee’s contributions to the ALA community helped to catalyze our mission to identify, develop and connect the next generation of African leaders.

Pardee played a crucial role as a supporter of ALA, and thanks to his generous contribution, the Frederick Pardee Learning Commons were opened on our campus in 2017. The Pardee Centre for African Futures Forecastingv, also located in the Learning Commons, opened in 2018, granting our students to access this world-leading research facility that enables them to research and understand where Africa will be in 50 to 100 years from now, and to design appropriate solutions.

“Fred Pardee played a role in the expansion of ALA. He believed that an institution that developed leaders would have a long-term effect,” said Bradford. “Investing in those you may never meet does not detract from your work, in fact it enhances it. He challenges me and you to be our best selves, and to pay his investment forward.”

Swaniker recounted how he met Pardee in his modest home in the upscale neighborhood of Brentwood, Los Angeles, for a conversation. “I learned humility, and the value of investing in what matters,” he said.

In their conversations, he learned what the philanthropist cared about most: what the world would look like in 50 to 100 years. He became especially interested in Africa after learning that the continent would be home to 40 percent of the world’s population by 2100, creating what many have called the “African Century.”. It became clear to Pardee that global trends will have a oversized impact on Africa and Africa will have a growing influence on the global stage.  What connected him to ALA was the opportunity to invest in an institution that is developing ethical, entrepreneurial leaders who will someday lead that 40 percent of the global population.

“Like a cathedral builder, he dedicated himself to causes he won’t live to see the outcomes of. Most of us in leadership roles will not live to see the full impact of our work, but we must do it,” Swaniker said.

Despite invitations from Swaniker, Pardee never visited the ALA campus, but was a firm believer in the academy’s mission. “He told me, ‘I trust what you are doing’,” said Swaniker. “He said if we’re building leaders, then he’s happy.”

Fred Swaniker with African Leadership Academy students
Fred Swaniker engages with African Leadership Academy students at the inaugural Fred Pardee Memorial Lecture.

Swaniker challenged the ALA students to live by Pardee’s example by rejecting ostentation and choosing to invest in what matters most. “Think long term. Be generous. In the same way he gave to ALA, I someday want to see your names adorning the buildings of institutions you may never visit or see with your own eyes. Transform Africa into a peaceful continent,” he said.

“The standards of the world are too low for Africa. If we are going to catch up, we need to be going faster. It’s not about copying best practice; it’s about creating our own practice,” he said.

In Memoriam: Frederick S. Pardee

The African Leadership Academy community mourns the passing of Frederick S. Pardee, a philanthropist, economist, and investor. He was 89 years old.

Mr. Pardee was a generous supporter of the academy, including the Frederick S. Pardee Library for the African Future, which was completed in 2009, and The Pardee Centre for African Futures, which was opened in 2018, and has since been a vital part of the ALA teaching and learning experience. Students have produced cutting edge research, data processing and future forecasting to best understand Africa’s most pressing challenges and how to meet them.

It is through ethical and entrepreneurial African leaders that we’ll be best placed to meet the challenges of poverty, healthcare, development and more, and this was enabled in no small part by the kindness of Mr. Pardee.

Pardee was an economic researcher with RAND Corporation from 1957 to 1975 before becoming a real estate investor in later years. His formative years coincided with World War 2, which he said inspired him to dream of peace among the nations and the improvement for lives everywhere in the world. After earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and management in 1954 from Boston University, which he obtained on scholarship, he served in the Air Force before joining RAND.

His lifelong passion for research meant that he continued to support learning and innovation around the world, including to ALA. Among his accomplishment include the creation of the Pardee Initiative for Global Human Progress at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, which is developing solutions to global and multinational challenges in Africa and in Asia.

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