Peter and Gwen Norton: Tech Grants

NET WORTH: Unknown 

SOURCE OF WEALTH: Peter Norton Computing Inc., ACORN Technologies


OVERVIEW: Peter Norton once ran a charitable vehicle with a former wife Eileen, which gave financial support to visual and contemporary non-profit arts organizations, as well as human social services organizations. More recently, he’s given several large individual donations with his wife Gwen.

BACKGROUND: Born in the Seattle area, Peter Norton graduated from Reed College in 1965. He developed a file recovery program for the IBM PC in 1982 and named his product after himself and formed Peter Norton Computing Inc. Norton wrote prolifically, including numerous computing books and monthly computing columns for PC Magazine and PC Week. He sold his eponymous company to Symantec for $70 million in stock in 1990. Norton went on to launch ACORN Technologies.


VISUAL ARTS: Norton and his ex-wife Eileen moved philanthropy through the Peter Norton Family Foundation, which was launched in 1988 and shuttered earlier in the decade. The then-couple amassed one of the largest modern contemporary art collections in the country. As he put it “Collections reflect the sensibility of the collector. I like to buy the work of artists in their early careers, not only as it supports, encourages, and gives heart to them, but also as it does the same for their contemporaries. I also tend to be drawn to work that reflects non-mainstream backgrounds: feminist art and art from Black, Hispanic and Asian cultures.” He was a steady patron of Signature Theatre Company, home to the Peter Norton Space. Through the foundation, Norton and Eileen also gave strong support to places like Crossroads School in Santa Monica, where Eileen lives, Reed College, and Smith College.

More recently in 2015, Norton donated 41 works by some of the most reputed contemporary artists to the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. The donation was part of a series of gifts from Norton’s personal collection to university art museums throughout the country, with the aim of fostering the integration of visual arts in higher education. Norton also donated more than 70 works of art to University of California, Riverside’s ARTSblock.

OTHER: Norton and Gwen, meanwhile, have recently supported Long Now Foundation, which aims to “foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.” They’ve also supported Spelman College, where Gwen is on the board of trustees.

LOOKING FORWARD: Expect Norton’s robust arts philanthropy to continue in particular.

LINK: ACORN Technologies