George Kaiser
George Kaiser

In the eIoquent letter that he posted on the Giving Pledge website, Tulsa businessman Kaiser, 68, begins as follows:

"I suppose I arrived at my charitable commitment largely through guilt. I recognized early on that my good fortune was not due to superior personal character or initiative so much as it was to dumb luck. I was blessed to be born in an advanced society with caring parents. So I had the advantage of both genetics (winning the 'ovarian lottery') and upbringing. As I looked around at those who did not have these advantages, it became clear to me that I had a moral obligation to direct my resources to help right that balance."

Let it be quickly noted that Kaiser, who is extremely publicity-shy, understates his talents. Born in the U.S. a few years after his Jewish parents fled Germany, he built Tulsa's very successful Kaiser-Francis Oil and also chairs BOK Financial, an eight-state banking company.

Kaiser has lavished money on Tulsa, but also on early-childhood education through a program called Educare. "Birth-to-3 education is very expensive," he says, "but less so than not doing it."

Inevitably, Kaiser's signing the Giving Pledge increased the public visibility he likes to avoid. But he enlisted, he says, hoping that the idea would seduce two types of givers. One would be "creative entrepreneurs" who might undertake innovative philanthropy before they die -- and before, he adds, "the money devolves to less worthy purposes." The other is "young recipients of sudden wealth who have not yet thought much about the subject." And there, on the list, are two who fit that bill: Facebook founders Zuckerberg and Moskovitz.


Last updated June 20 2011: 4:17 PM ET