The Efforts of Entrepreneur and Philanthropist James Dondero

James Dondero and Highland Capital Management


Entrepreneur and philanthropist James Dondero has not experienced a typical day for many years. His long days are currently filled with work and activities geared toward helping various organizations in the Dallas community. As the president and co-founder of Highland Capital Management, Mr. Dondero made sure his firm included charitable giving in its mission from the start. With his entrepreneurial mindset, James Dondero has made a point to use his foundation to make tangible impacts on the community and deliver large-scale, strategic improvements in the Dallas area. Mr. Dondero and his firm have supported The Family Place, The Dallas Zoo, SMU’s Tower Scholars program, The Perot Museum of Nature and Science, Education Is Freedom, and many more local charity organizations. Most gifts are made through the Highland Dallas Foundation, Inc., the philanthropic arm of Highland Capital Management.

“At Highland Capital Management, we invest in the community by supporting organizations that are advancing the Dallas area in unique, influential ways,” said Mr. Dondero.

While each organization represents a worthwhile cause, Mr. Dondero takes a larger strategic approach to his philanthropic work, considering the effects of his giving as a whole and recognizing opportunities for nonprofits to work together to maximize their impact.

One of his recent undertakings was to contribute a large sum of money to one of the the Dallas Zoo’s newest exhibits. In 2001, the Dallas Zoo eliminated its popular hippo habitat. When an elderly hippo named Papa died, the zoo’s management decided that the hippo residence was no longer needed. Residents in the Dallas area were unhappy about the decision. However, the hippo habitat remained closed for nearly two decades.



People called the zoo and wrote letters complaining that they missed observing the fascinating and entertaining hippos. They wanted the zoo to rebuild the habitat so that their families could enjoy watching the larger than life animals.


After all these years, the Dallas Zoo management team has decided to listen to the concerns expressed by Dallas residents. Leaders at the zoo made the decision to rebuild the hippo habitat into a completely modernized rendition. The only problem was that the zoo required about $14 million to restore the habitat to what is now known as the hippo outpost. The outpost, which comprises more than two acres, was recently launched. People immediately began to flock to the Dallas Zoo so that they could view the hippos in action. Gregg Hudson, chief operating officer of the Dallas Zoo, admits that the new Simmons Hippo Outpost, which contains the 5,000-square-foot Highland Capital Lodge, is largely responsible for the zoo’s additional visitors.


“To me, that’s a really great sign of the maturity of our organization, being able to go out and get the support in the philanthropic circles we need for this scale of project,” said Zoo president and CEO Gregg Hudson.


Mr. Dondero donated $1 million dollars so that Dallas residents and visitors could take their families to the zoo and watch the amusing antics of their favorite hippos. In fact, the Dallas Zoo named a section of the hippo habitat after Highland Capital Management, James Dondero’s financial business. Due to James Dondero’s generous contribution, people are now able to hold private events at the Highland Capital Lodge. The Simmons Hippo Outpost will continue to attract large crowds to the Dallas Zoo.


“The Zoo is exactly the kind of organization that we like to support, and Highland was proud to assist them in bringing exceptional educational opportunities and experiences like the hippo exhibit to Dallas,” Mr. Dondero said.


The new hippo outpost features two charming hippos named Adhama and Boipelo. Adhama, a younger male hippopotamus, appears to enjoy his ventures in the water. Visitors are entranced as they watch the hippo gracefully dance in the water via an enclosure surrounded by glass. Even though Boipelo, a male hippo, is four years older than Adhama, the zookeepers have hopes that the matched pair will eventually become parents of a baby. A new baby hippo will help ensure that hippos will not become an endangered species.


Whether it is part of his destiny or simply a passion for helping others, James Dondero has always wanted to use his money for improvements in the Dallas area. Mr. Dondero loves Dallas and the people who reside in his neighborhood. James Dondero’s philanthropic commitment has empowered him to offer his assistance whenever the Dallas community requires a financial push.


Besides his involvement with the Dallas Zoo hippo project, James Dondero’s firm, Highland Capital Management LP, has contributed funds to the Education is Freedom charity and the Perot Museum of Natural Science. Mr. Dondero’s financial credit company has also donated money to the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.


James Dondero


Furthermore, James Dondero founded the Highland Dallas Foundation, Inc. with the help of Mary Jalonick. Ms. Jalonick, the chief financial officer of The Dallas Foundation, is a close ally. Her collaborative efforts with Mr. Dondero has resulted in substantial financial contributions to charitable organizations located in the Dallas vicinity. Numerous annual grants sponsored by the Highland Dallas Foundation, Inc. provide financial assistance to students, veterans, charities and civic organizations in Dallas.


Eager for getting even more involved in his community, James Dondero recently joined forces with Linda Owen, former CEO of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation. Ms. Owen diligently contributes her time and energy to his foundation to ensure that he is aware of various nonprofit agencies in Dallas. Their intentions are to renovate the northern part of Texas.


With Linda Owen’s help, Highland Capital Management has had opportunities to help The Family Place by offering a $1 million challenge. In addition, Mr. Dondero’s assistance to The Family Place, a shelter for domestic violence victims, has received extra funds due to a Mother’s Day event held at the Dallas Zoo.

The Family Place is the biggest provider of family violence services in the state of Texas. The agency offers lifesaving shelters, professional counseling, and life-changing education for victims of family violence. They also provide education to thousands of students on the topics of bullying and teen dating violence prevention. The Family Place recently opened the first family violence shelter for men and their children in the state. All programs are provided in Spanish and English.

Highland Capital Management awarded a $1 million challenge grant to help The Family Place raise funds for its Legacy Campaign to build and run a new counseling center in central Dallas. The grant matched 50 percent of any funds raised for the capital campaign up to $1 million—a strategically crafted gift designed by Mr. Dondero to give the campaign an extra boost in its final stages. With Mr. Dondero’s targeted giving, Highland’s challenge grant ensured that The Family Place had a strong fundraising campaign that was completed ahead of schedule.

Mr. Dondero noted that the grant was his response to a call to action by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and former Dallas Police Chief David Brown for the community to work against domestic violence in Dallas. He recognized that other Dallas residents would appreciate the opportunity to join in this response.

“The civic community in Dallas gets things done,” Mr. Dondero said. “We at Highland Capital Management were impressed by the way The Family Place, through avid philanthropic support, took this concept from inception to the final stage of this campaign in just a year. We are proud to invest alongside many of the most generous and thoughtful in the community.”

During the campaign, The Family Place’s Executive Director Paige Flink said, “For anyone considering this effort to provide lifesaving shelter and life-changing services to family violence victims in our community, this is a tremendous opportunity to multiply the impact of their gift.”

On the heels of the success of the challenge grant, Mr. Dondero looked to provide more direct support for the work of The Family Place, and he did so by leveraging Highland’s relationship with other local nonprofits. In this case, Mr. Dondero provided a specific donation to The Family Place to hold a Mother’s Day event for residents of their emergency shelter. The event was held at The Dallas Zoo and made possible through Highland’s extensive support of the Zoo as a donor. Ms. Owen oversaw the event and helped bring together the various groups involved, connecting Highland’s wide-ranging charitable giving activities in the most efficient, effective ways.


As a young man working at JPMorgan Chase & Co., James Dondero advanced his career when he accepted a prestigious position at American Express. His degrees earned at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce helped him become the Co-Founder of Highland Capital Management, LP located in Dallas, Texas. Since 1993, Highland Capital Management LP has earned a stellar reputation within the financial industry. Working mainly with credit hedge funds and equity accounts held by private individuals, James Dondero is a talented and diligent entrepreneur.


James Dondero is the perfect example of an entrepreneur whose heart is devoted to philanthropy. His charitable efforts have achieved successful outcomes for a wide array of organizations. James Dondero’s vision and financial means serve to form a powerful and positive force within the Dallas community.


In addition to donations given to various Dallas organizations, Mr. Dondero has donated money to charities located in other countries. Focusing on education and assistance to veterans, Highland Capital Management LP continues to thrive as a guiding principle and altruistic benefactor.


James Dondero is the perfect example of an entrepreneur who effectively applies his business acumen to his philanthropic work. As a result, his charitable efforts have achieved successful outcomes for a wide array of organizations. James Dondero’s vision for the organizations he supports, coupled with his financial contributions, form a powerful and positive force within the Dallas community.

Highland Capital Management made a $2 million endowment gift to Southern Methodist University to create the Highland Capital Management Endowed Tower Scholars Program Fund. The program was developed to support top-level undergraduates studying politics and international affairs, and to stimulate an interest in public service. Students selected as Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars receive study-abroad opportunities, exposure to public policymaking, access to key global leaders, and meaningful senior-year internships.

Since the initial gift from Mr. Dondero and Highland, the program has graduated one class of Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars, who have gone on to achieve early successes, launching promising careers at the intersection of business and policy in many cases, and in others, continuing their education at leading law schools and other graduate programs.

“Transformative education initiatives are a key focus of our philanthropy,” said James Dondero.


“We have deep respect for the role that Southern Methodist University plays in the community. This program offers students extraordinary opportunities to interact with global and national leaders, influential policymakers, and top employers that call Dallas home.”

The exclusive, application-only Tower Scholars Program accepts students from all majors across SMU’s schools, with admission based on a competitive process that takes into consideration academic record, extracurricular engagement, and the relevance of public policy in students’ career goals, among other criteria.  Each year, ten sophomore students join the list of Highland Capital Management Tower Scholars. The scholars are immersed in the international political economy, domestic and foreign affairs, and national security. The specialized curriculum includes instruction by professors-of-the-practice and visiting diplomats.

“By focusing solely on undergraduate students, the Tower Scholars Program distinguishes SMU from peer institutions that offer this type of curricula only to graduate students,” Hamon Foundation president Kelly E. Roach said.


“The opportunity to begin working with political, government and business leaders at this stage of their education nurtures leadership skills at a pivotal point in these students’ lives.”

Mr. Dondero has also been a longtime supporter of the Perot Museum of Natural Science in Dallas. As with the Bush Center, Mr. Dondero and Highland were among the donors who helped fund the construction of the iconic museum building that we know today. The Perot Museum is a place for children to learn about science, math, and technology through hands-on activities and education. The museum has 11 permanent exhibit halls with themes such as innovation, energy, and engineering. In addition to their permeant displays, the museum also brings in traveling exhibits—an effort made possible by Highland’s contributions.

Highland Capital Management sponsored the recent Journey to Space traveling exhibition, which provided the opportunity for the Dallas community to learn about the extraordinary conditions, dangers, and rewards of human space travel. This hands-on adventure for all ages showed the advancements in spacecraft and spacesuit technology. Visitors could also explore rotating labs in a mock-up of the International Space Station Destiny module.

Mr. Dondero said of the recent exhibit, “Journey to Space provided an exciting introduction, not just to our massive universe, but to the science and math at the core of it as well. Highland Capital Management is glad to help inspire our next generation of scientists through our support of the Perot and hands-on exhibitions like this one.”

Highland also sponsored the latest traveling exhibition at the Perot, Ultimate Dinosaurs, which opened in June and runs through January 2019.

Highland Capital Management has regularly supported Capital for Kids and its main event, helping rally its industry peers to come together in support of a worthy cause. The organization’s mission is aligned with the work of Mr. Dondero and Highland’s charitable giving, making it a natural partner in making an impact in the community.

Capital for Kids is a network of investment management professionals who volunteer to assist children in need. Capital for Kids’ mission is to support organizations that educate, protect, and encourage at-risk children. The organization believes that every child deserves a chance to succeed. Through its network of beneficiaries, Capital for Kids provides quality education programs and other invaluable services for hundreds of low-income families in the Dallas area.

“It is critical to our community to help promote a strong environment for children to thrive and break the cycles of poverty and abuse. This work is not possible without the strong support of our sponsors,” said a recent co-chair of the Capital for Kids Main Event.

About James Dondero

James Dondero is the president and co-founder of Highland Capital Management, which he launched with Mark Okada in 1993. A graduate of University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, Mr. Dondero, began his career in J.P. Morgan’s analyst training program. He went on to join American Express as a corporate bond analyst and later became a portfolio manager. In 1989, Mr. Dondero left American Express to join Protective Life, where he teamed up with Mr. Okada to create a joint venture that ultimately became Highland Capital Management. The duo launched the company in Los Angeles, but quickly relocated to Dallas, Texas, where the firm has been headquartered ever since. Under the leadership of James Dondero, Highland has become a multibillion-dollar investment firm, operating a variety of strategies and vehicles across its diverse investment platform. With credit hedge funds, liquid alternative mutual funds, real estate vehicles, and ETFs, among other investment solutions, Mr. Dondero has applied his unique expertise to a number of different areas and grown Highland into the firm it is today.

About Highland Capital Management

The Dallas-based investment management firm was founded in 1993 by James Dondero and Mark Okada. Over the past 25 years, Highland Capital Management has grown into a multibillion-dollar global asset manager. Highland’s diversified client base includes public pension plans, governments, and high net-worth individuals. The firm is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and also maintains offices in Buenos Aires, New York, São Paulo, Singapore, and Seoul. Visit to learn more.







Recenty, Highland Capital Management recieved Pensions & Investments’ Best Places to Work in Money Management Award, read more about that, here.

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