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Harry Potter’s mistress donates millions in honor of her mum.

September 2, 2010

J.K. Rowling

Looks like this is shaping up to be “Brit Week” (not too much different from “Shark Week,” eh?), what with items about John Le Carre, Tony Blair, and now, J.K. Rowling, who is donating £10 million for MS research. For perspective, that’s equal to $15 million, or the  lint in the bottom of her purse.

Rowling, creator of Harry Potter and author of the seven biggest-selling novels of modern times, is the richest author in the world, after all. Forbes placed her net worth at a cool $1 billion in March, which also makes her the planet’s 337th wealthiest person overall.

Even though she’s published little since 2007, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows culminated the series, Rowling keeps those revenue streams a-pumping. The books continue to sale at a brisk clip, she got some cut of the Harry Potter theme ride that opened in Orlando earlier this summer (and needed barely six weeks to register its one millionth rider), and a new Potter film is scheduled for release in November.

So let’s see…add one billion, divided by 15 million, carry three, multiplied by pi (preferably blueberry), calculated to the square root of TMZ and the answer is: 1.5 percent. That’s how much of Rowling’s fortune she’s given away this week. To match the percentage the tithing churchgoer, say, places in the offering plate every Sunday, she’d have to pony up $100 million.

Okay, maybe there’s something wrong with my math, which would surprise no one, and after all, as Fitzgerald noted, the rich are different from you and me, so maybe the moral weight of $15 million is greater for a titan like Rowling. But I can’t help thinking that $985 million still buys a lot of sexy underwear.

In fairness, though, it is a touching story. Rowling recently turned 45, the age at which her mother died of multiple sclerosis. Scotland, where Rowling was born and still lives, has one of the highest MS. rates in the world, with 10,500 sufferers.

Rowling’s endowment goes to Edinburgh University to fund the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic for research into MS and other neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“I know that [my mother] would rather have had her name on this clinic than on any statue, flower garden or commemorative plaque, so this donation is on her behalf, too; and in gratitude for everything she gave me in her far-too-short life,” Rowling said

In further fairness, Rowling has been active in charitable works since 1997, when the first Harry Potter book came out, and the money came rolling in. In 2000 she established the Volant Charitable Trust, with an annual budget of $5.1 million, to combat poverty.

“I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently,” Rowling said at the time.

“This exceptionally generous donation will provide great help in the worldwide effort to improve treatments for multiple sclerosis,” said Sir Timothy O’Shea, of Edinburgh University, which is in the middle of a campaign to raise £350m for research and scholarships. (Ask someone else how much that is in Yankee money. My head hurts from all the math).

Oh, all right, sor-ry. I was just having a bit o’ fun at a rich person’s expense (ba-dum!). But it really does look like Rowling is going about doing good works and doling out her good fortune with a clear eye and a generous hand.  We could use more like her.

And to any irate Rowlingite out there, please remember that I liked the books and wrote nothing but rapturous reviews. So keep your curses and binding spells to yourselves, thank you very much.

Oh, and for the record: Though I don’t own any myself, I have no moral objection to sexy underwear.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. John Karwacki permalink
    September 2, 2010 4:05 pm

    fabuloso giveawayicus… hooray for JK, a great lady with great intials…

  2. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    September 2, 2010 8:00 pm

    Yes, she does seem to be an honor to her profession, her gender, her species, her initials.

  3. Marla permalink
    September 2, 2010 9:47 pm

    I’m already impressed with JKR … now, for personal reasons – even more so!!! Rock on JKR!!! Same to you, Chauncey! Thanks for continuing to write such wonderful pieces for your posts!!

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      September 2, 2010 11:07 pm

      Thanks, Marla.

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