Larry Ellison High School?

Larry Ellison’s Beechwood estate, in Newport.

Larry Ellison’s Beechwood estate, in Newport.

From Robert Whitcomb’s “Digital Diary,’’ in

Jim Gillis of the Newport Daily News created a bit of a flap in his Feb. 14 column, headlined “Spare Change: Here’s an idea for moneybags Larry Ellison’’. Mr. Gillis was responding to news that the Oracle mogul Ellison, ranked the fifth-richest person in America, with a fortune of over $62 billion, has bought a fourth estate in the City by the Sea, this one called Seacliff. His most important Newport property is the old Astor estate called Beechwood, on which he’s spent $100 million to turn it into an art museum.

Mr. Gillis suggests -- partly in jest? -- that a better use of Mr. Ellison’s money would be for him to spend $120 million to build a new high school to replace Newport’s aging Rogers High School. He writes:

“Heck, lots of multi-billionaires own mansions. How many build their own schools? Sure, the city would operate the place. All you need do is bankroll construction. Hey, maybe other local celebrity rich folk like Jay Leno and Judge Judy might chip in a few shekels.

“The high school has been named for William S. Rogers since before any of us were alive, predating the current location.

“We love tradition here. But for $120 million, I suppose Larry Ellison High School sounds pretty good.’’

To read Mr. Gillis’s column, please hit this link:

Well, Larry Ellison and other new and long-entrenched Newport celebrities do pay lots of property taxes. And, God bless ‘em, the three folks whom Mr. Gillis mentioned at least made made their own money rather than being the beneficiaries of inheritance (what the late, crude Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci called “the lucky sperm club’’). And they can spend their money any damn way they want.

But wouldn’t it be nice if more very rich people contributed to public services rather than seeming to want to wrap themselves more tightly in glamour and prestige by giving money to, say, already rich museums and private colleges?

For example, MarketWatch reported that “20 colleges {most of them elite private institutions} that received the most money in donations during the last fiscal year accounted for about 28% of the total $46.73 billion donated to universities during that period. They serve just 1.6% of the nation’s 19.9 million undergraduate students. That’s based on an analysis of the annual Voluntary Support for Education survey, published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, a membership association for professionals working in development, alumni relations and related fields for educational institutions.’’