Education: Prizes with No Strings Attached

The MacArthur Foundation tries a new philanthropic tactic

It was as if The Millionaire were rerunning in life. "Congratulations," said the telephone caller from Chicago, "you have just been awarded $248,000 over five years with no strings attached." Recalls Harvard Psychiatrist and Author Robert Coles, 51: "My wife and kids thought it was a joke."

Coles and 20 other scholars and artists learned last week that the giveaway was not a joke but a new talent search begun by Chicago's John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Its aim: finding creative people and helping them...

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