Hire Callings

Leaving a finance career doesn't necessarily mean leaving finance.

The foundation, funded largely with appreciated Amazon stock, is
named for the ship Charles Darwin took to the Galapagos Islands. (It was
in planning the first trip there with her husband that Covey came up with
the idea for Beagle Foundation — naming it after herself was just not her
style.) Today, their foundation “is not huge,” she says, describing their
endowment for it as “seven figures, although we’re planning to turn it into
eight at some point.”

One project of which she is particularly proud is the Beagle/
Harvard Law School Fellowship, which sends recent graduates to the
NRDC for two years of training in nonprofit environmental law. Another
program funded by Beagle Foundation’s $1 million gift to Harvard Business
School was directed to the Harvard University Center for the Environment.
(Covey holds both law and business degrees from Harvard.)

While her passion for the environment was less a factor in
her decision to leave Amazon than were “the fertility tables,” Covey
doesn’t rule out at least a part-time return to the workforce, perhaps
when her young son starts school. It may not end up being a CFO role,
she says, but finance “is so much a part of my vocabulary that it’s hard to
identify anything that I now do differently.” — Roy Harris

Mix It Up

The simple life is not in Thomas J. Meredith’s
nature. If he were “etymologically based,” the 56-
year-old former Dell Computer CFO laughs, “I
would be a compound complex sentence.”

On the one hand, there’s his private-equity
investing. Meredith’s last brief job before
leaving Dell, running Dell Ventures, taught him
“how hot — and then how not — the IPO market
would be for technology companies.” While there,
he teamed with former Dell treasurer Alex C. Smith
to create an investment advisory firm, Meritage
Capital, that specializes in multimanager hedge
funds. Meritage now has about $350 million in
assets under management.

Then there is his family charity, MFI Foundation —
whose mantra is “inspiring, investing,
and involving” — making a difference in the world
with the personal wealth that he considers largely
a product of luck. “I was fortunate early on to be
involved with technology companies that got to be
big,” says Meredith, who was treasurer of Sun
Microsystems before joining Dell. MFI Foundation
takes the notion of a family foundation literally:
Meredith and his wife, Lynn, run it, and all four of
their children participate. “It’s been really fun to
watch them invest,” says Meredith, recalling with
special fondness his then-9-year-old daughter’s
effort to organize a benefit screening of the first
Harry Potter movie to aid the families of those
killed in the September 11 attacks.

Mixed in are myriad causes to which Meredith
lends his finance connections and his sense for
a reasonable ROI. For example, he is on the board
of One Laptop Per Child, which is developing a $100
laptop for distribution to millions of impoverished
children. And while simplicity may not be the end
result of all his endeavors, he hopes they add up to
“significance.” — R.H.

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