Billionaire Ken Griffin has given $300 million to Harvard University, his biggest gift ever to his alma mater.
The founder of Citadel and Citadel Securities has now donated more than $500 million to the Ivy League school. In recognition of that support, the university will soon grant its master’s and PhD degrees from the newly renamed Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, according to a statement Tuesday.
“We’re going to solve many of the problems the world faces today with intellectual capital and financial resources, and intellectual capital is what Harvard is all about,” Griffin said in an interview. He ticked off Harvard professors he follows, from Larry Summers on the economy to Thomas Kane on learning loss to Michael Sandel on the intersection of philosophy and markets.
Griffin’s unrestricted funding covers anything under the purview of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, such as Harvard College and its graduate school, as well as the athletic department and more than 25 libraries and 10 museums.
It follows a $150 million donation from Griffin in 2014 to bolster financial aid, which is still the largest single gift to undergraduate assistance and Harvard College.
Griffin, 54, said he plans to continue to give to Harvard as it transitions to new leadership. Claudine Gay, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, becomes president of the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based university on July 1, succeeding Larry Bacow.
“I am deeply and personally appreciative of the confidence he has placed in us — and our mission — to do good in the world,” Bacow said of Griffin in the statement.
With a net worth of $34.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Griffin has come a long way since he began trading in his dorm room starting sophomore year. He founded his hedge fund soon after graduating in 1989, and last year both Citadel and Citadel Securities had record profits.
Griffin’s total giving is approaching $2 billion as he settles into Miami, where he has been amping up his donations after relocating there last year from Chicago.
His Harvard gifts have covered a range of needs: a scholarship in his grandfather’s name, research on stem cells, and a Harvard Business School professorship.
As expenses for higher education have climbed, so have the fortunes of alumni and the size of their gifts. Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, made a $1.8 billion gift to Johns Hopkins University in 2018, bringing his total giving to more than $3.5 billion.
Nike Inc. co-founder Philip Knight has given more than $1.4 billion in various chunks to schools in Oregon and California, while Florence Irving donated $700 million to Columbia University in 2017 after her husband Herbert died.
Many of the recent mega gifts to the Harvard have been for science and engineering, such as the $500 million Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg gave for an artificial intelligence institute and the $400 million hedge fund founder John Paulson donated to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Griffin’s latest gift supports both science and the humanities, which he called a “holistic set of endeavors that need to take place hand in hand.”
“There are very serious ethical and philosophical questions that come into play from the revolution we are seeing in the sciences,” he said. “There will be a moment when a self driving car will have to make a decision, who to injure, or we have to make decisions around the impact of increasing longevity. So having a school with a deep heritage in philosophy and government, will help us grapple with modern society.”