Billionaire Ken Griffin is giving Miami Dade College $20 million — and sharing some life lessons with its graduates.
The Citadel founder delivered the commencement address at Miami Dade on Saturday, exhorting the Class of 2023 to invest in their community and saying there are “many problems to be addressed in our society.” He encouraged them to work on challenges such as developing clean energy, educating children, addressing the housing crisis and combating the health issues that come with an aging society.
“More than ever, America needs leadership,” said Griffin, 54. “We need it in our businesses, in our government, in our civic society.”
He also encouraged the graduating class to persevere and said “life is full of setbacks.” When Citadel “was on the precipice of collapse” during the 2008 global financial crisis, Griffin said, he turned to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s then-CEO Lloyd Blankfein for advice.
“I asked Lloyd when the crisis would abate, and he responded, ‘A forest fire ends when there is nothing left to burn,’ ” Griffin said. “These weren’t exactly the words of encouragement I was hoping for.”
Pointing to setbacks experienced by other successful companies like Tesla Inc. and Apple Inc., Griffin said that “in times of hardship, character is what matters.”
Griffin’s $20 million donation to Miami Dade College, announced Saturday, is the single largest philanthropic gift in the institution’s history and will be used to establish the Griffin Scholarship Fund to provide college educations to high school students, according to a statement Saturday.
This month, Griffin gave $300 million to Harvard University, his biggest gift ever to his alma mater. He has now donated more than $500 million to the Ivy League school.
The donation adds to other philanthropic gifts made by Griffin to South Florida, where he was born and raised and where Citadel is building its new headquarters. Griffin’s name is on the Norman Foster-designed addition to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, and he has been the main seed donor for a fund to respond to natural disasters and a program to expand broadband access in underserved communities.