The story that billionaire Elon Musk has made a R1-million donation to Pretoria Boys High School, but asked never to be contacted again, has been widely circulated over the last few years.
After Musk became the world’s richest man last week, the same piece of information started doing the rounds on social media again.
It has become so pervasive that most people do not question the truth of the story. It is, however, false.
Musk did indeed have an unpleasant time at Bryanston High, where he was bullied and assaulted to the level that he had to spend two weeks in Sandton Clinic.
His dad, Errol Musk, said he moved Elon from Bryanston High to Pretoria Boys High School, where he completed his matric.
Musk left for Canada soon after completing his matric to skip compulsory military service and to explore economic opportunities in the United States.
He quickly became a Silicon Valley hotshot after he founded, built, and sold Zip2 for $307 million to Compaq.
He then founded X.com, which ultimately became PayPal, which was sold to eBay in October 2002 for $1.5 billion in stock.
Musk used his cut of $180 million to invest $100 million in SpaceX, $70 million in Tesla, and $10 million in Solar City.
These companies showed tremendous growth in recent years, which helped to make Musk the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $195 billion.
Donations to Pretoria Boys High School
Bill Schroder, who was headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School from 1990 to 2009, headed a fundraising exercise over a four-year period.
“I feel it is important to set the record straight in terms of donations received from Elon Musk who matriculated at Boys High in 1988,” he said.
He confirmed that Elon Musk did, at his request, give the school a donation of R1 million.
“What is not true is that he disliked the country or the school so intensely that he told me not to approach him again,” said Schroder.
Schroder added that he did indeed approach Musk again at a later stage, and that he sent a second donation to Pretoria Boys High School.
The former Pretoria Boys High School headmaster said it is well documented that Musk was bullied and an unhappy schoolboy at Bryanston High.
However, Schroder said, “there is no evidence that he was poorly treated at Boys High”.
Full statement by Bill Schroder, headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School from 1990 to 2009 (courtesy of Biznews)
I was the Headmaster of Pretoria Boys High School from 1990 to 2009 and subsequent to my retirement was asked to head a fundraising exercise over a four-year period. As such, I feel it is important to set the record straight in terms of donations received from Elon Musk who matriculated at Boys High in 1988.
It is true that Elon Musk did, at my request, give a donation for R1 million. What is not true is that he disliked the country or the school so intensely that he told me not to approach him again. I, in fact did, and he sent a second donation per that request.
I lost contact with him for a while as he changed PA’s and on re-establishing contact, a new network for consideration of donations had been put in place and it must be understood that people with that amount of wealth have teams of people who deal with huge numbers of requests for donations. At that point we received nothing further from him.
It is well documented in a number of biographies that Elon was bullied and an unhappy schoolboy in a school in Johannesburg and was moved to Pretoria Boys High in Grade 10 (Standard 8). There is no evidence that he was poorly treated at Boys High and when he matriculated, he went to Canada where his mother was living.
Possibly what upsets me more is that the size of his donation was leaked somehow. I did the fundraising alone with the help of my secretary of 20 years and one of the bases of the fundraising was that the amount of a donation was treated in the strictest confidence. I only targeted alumni and close friends of the school and believe that our success in raising R32 million in four years was based on the confidentiality factor.
Until the publication of this article, the only thing a member of the Pretoria Boys High community would know is that Elon Musk did donate as his name appears on a donor board together with his year group, making no differentiation between some who gave R100 or R1 million.