Manchester and his family have given more than $40 million over several decades to charities and institutions including University of San Diego, the Child Abuse Protection Foundation, the Bishop’s School in La Jolla, Wake Forest University and his alma mater, San Diego State University.
“We’re all charged with the responsibility of giving back to this incredible community,” said Manchester in an interview with Times of San Diego. “Everybody here in this great country of ours who’s had success is called on to follow the Alexis De Toqueville mission and model.”
De Toqueville was a French historian and political thinker whose landmark book Democracy in American pointed out how newly-independent Americans, unlike Europeans, engaged in voluntary action on behalf of the common good. Manchester helped found the local United Way Tocqueville Society, a group of major donors.
Manchester is most proud of his work building University of San Diego’s endowment and preserving its architecturally unique campus, personally funding three Spanish Renaissance-style buildings. “We now have a university up there that is financially sound, well respected, and if you walk on that campus you have homogeneous architecture.”
He said the San Diego community is becoming “much more” generous as it grows larger. He cited fellow business leaders and philanthropists Ernest Rady, Irwin Jacobs and T. Denny Sanford.
“Their generosity has been enormous and has benefited the community so much,” he said. “They’re three great friends and I admire and respect them so very much for what they have done…. In a much smaller way, our family has attempted to do the same thing.”
Turning to the U-T, he said he wants the newspaper to continue to “champion what is good and right about our community.” He said a recent proposal to make the U-T a nonprofit enterprise is a “good idea,” but has been difficult to achieve.
Manchester’s local philanthropy included a gift of land on the waterfront, adjacent to his hotel developments, that became the site of the San Diego Convention Center. He later developed The Grand Del Mar, whose signature restaurant Addison — named for famed 1920s resort architect Addison Mizner — has won a long list of international awards for culinary excellence. “I wanted it to be the very best,” he said.
The 72-year-old Manchester said he plans to continue his philanthropic efforts, vowing never to retire.