First Republic Bank Founder Jim Herbert makes rare public appearance to kick off education endowment

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First Republic Bank founder Jim Herbert debuted a $40 million endowment campaign at the Basic Fund's 25th Anniversary Luncheon this week. Herbert is chairman of the Basic Fund, which helps students from low-income families attend private schools.

First Republic Bank founder Jim Herbert has had a rough year, with the bank he spent almost four decades building seized by regulators in May and sold to JPMorgan Chase & Co.

But he was in good spirits this week when he was rallying support for a cause he’s long been passionate about — children’s education.

Herbert spoke Tuesday at the Basic Fund’s 25th Anniversary Luncheon, where he is chairman of the nonprofit that has raised more than $155 million since its founding in 1998. Since then it has provided scholarships to more than 26,000 Bay Area students from low-income families so they can attend one of more than 240 private schools in the region from kindergarten through eighth grade.

Basic Fund’s founders included Arthur Rock, a venture capitalist and early investor in Intel and Apple; Jim McCarthy, a former Merrill Lynch senior executive; and John Walton, son of the Walmart founder. Herbert was a founding director.

“The Basic Fund is very near and dear to my heart,” Herbert told me last year, noting that 98% of those receiving Basic scholarships have graduated from high school and 92% have gone on to college.

At the San Francisco luncheon that drew about 250 supporters, the Basic Fund announced a $40 million endowment campaign.

“We’re going to start an endowment,” Herbert said, referencing a recent lunch he had with Rock. “We decided to launch a campaign to sustain this effort, not to replace the effort, but to sustain it and to put an underpinning under it and to take in more students.

“Thanks in large part to Arthur Rock, among others, he gave us a $5 million initial match grant,” Herbert said. “We have raised of the $40 million, $23 million. So we’re well on our way.”

After the program, I spoke briefly with Herbert about what he has been doing since May.

“I’m here from time to time,” Herbert said, adding that Wyoming is his home now even though he has family and a house in the Bay Area. “I’m not doing anything professionally right now. I will, but not just yet.”

He declined to discuss First Republic’s downfall. But at Tuesday’s luncheon, many were eager to say hello to Herbert, who displayed the energy and enthusiasm that he relied on to build one of the Bay Area’s largest banks.

When I asked Herbert whether he had any message for the Bay Area business community, Herbert said, “The main thing is the business community should stay engaged with efforts like the Basic Fund.

“We have a challenge in the community, as we know. We’re all going to solve it together or we’re not going to solve it together,” Herbert said. “This is not a blame game. It’s how do we solve it? How do we bring the Bay Area back?”

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The BASIC Fund is a privately funded 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to advance education equity for low-income families by helping offset the cost of tuition at private schools in the Bay Area.

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