George Lucas will donate the majority of the $4.05 billion he'll make from Walt Disney Co.'s acquisition of Lucasfilm to improve education.
The Modesto native and mastermind behind the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" film series announced his decision in a statement provided by Lucasfilm.
"For 41 years, the majority of my time and money has been put into the company," he said. "As I start a new chapter in my life, it is gratifying that I have the opportunity to devote more time and resources to philanthropy."
He didn't provide details about how the money would be spent. It's unclear if the money will go to his 20-year-old George Lucas Educational Foundation or some other organization. His sister Kate Nyegaard, a Modesto resident and a foundation board member, said she doesn't have any more information.
"The idea that he is giving money is new to me, too," she said Friday. "He probably knows in his own mind what he has in mind."
Two years ago, Lucas, 68, made a commitment to support education on The Giving Pledge, an effort by 93 of America's wealthiest individuals to commit the majority of their money to philanthropy. It includes a who's who of American business, including Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, investor Warren Buffett and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
"I am dedicating the majority of my wealth to improving education," he says in a letter on www.givingpledge.org. "It is the key to the survival of the human race. We have to plan for our collective future and the first step begins with the social, emotional and intellectual tools we provide to our children.
"As humans, our greatest tool for survival is our ability to think and to adapt as educators, storytellers and communicators our responsibility is to continue to do so."
The George Lucas Educational Foundation, which has a mailing address in San Rafael, works to improve the K-12 learning process by documenting, sharing and advocating for best practices of teachers and schools around the world. It operates under a $4.02 million annual budget.
The foundation does not make grants, but it runs www. edutopia.org, which shares information about successful programs and educational strategies.
"We try to tell the good stories happening in education and highlight the schools that are doing well," Nyegaard said.
The foundation also supports research on educational methods, including most recently a collaboration with the University of Washington to determine the effectiveness of a form of project-based learning.
Lucas says on the Edutopia site that he was inspired to start the foundation because his experiences in public schools were frustrating.
"I was often bored," he said. "Occasionally, I had a teacher who engaged my curiosity and motivated me to learn. Those were the teachers I really loved. I wondered, 'Why can't school be engaging all of the time?' As a father, I've felt the imperative to transform schooling even more urgently."
Bee arts writer Lisa Renner can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2313.