The 15 biggest private donations to universities by the ultra rich

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Billionaire Robert F. Smith shocked the nation after announcing he would pay off all student loans for the 400-person graduating class at Atlanta’s Morehouse College.

The gift, which reportedly amounts to $US40 million, differs from other college donations because it goes toward eliminating college debt for students. Philanthropists and billionaires typically give colleges millions to fund programs or build new schools.


Read more:
A billionaire’s vow to pay Morehouse graduates’ loans isn’t a surprise move, it’s just the newest trend in the student-debt crisis

The largest gift in higher education belongs to Michael Bloomberg, who recently donated $US1.8 billion to make his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University, “need-blind.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which tracks major donations to higher education after 1967, updated its list of the priciest single donations to universities and colleges earlier this month. The Chronicle found over 100 donations that totaled $US101 million or more.

Here are the 15 most generous single-time donations to colleges and universities since 1967. (The list excludes donations to educational institutes or programs.)


15. Chuck Feeney, who helped pioneer duty-free shopping, donated $US350 million to Cornell University in 2011.

Facebook/Carnegie Corporation

Feeney kept his donation anonymous until The New York Times unmasked his identity.


14. An anonymous donor gave $US360 million to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a private research university in Troy, New York, in 2001.

At the time, the donation marked the largest gift ever to any public or private university in the United States. The gift amounts to about $US519 million in today’s dollars.


T-13. Nike co-founder and billionaire Philip Knight donated $US400 million to Stanford University in 2016.

Knight graduated from Stanford’s business school in 1962. The donation would help establish a graduate-level fellowship program at the school.


T-13. The Hewlett Foundation donated $US400 million to Stanford University in 2001, at the time the single largest gift to an American college or university.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation was founded by Hewlett-Packard cofounder and his wife. Around $US300 million went toward the School of Humanities and Sciences, and $US100 million went to the Campaign for Undergraduate Education, according to a Stanford press release.


T-13. Hedge-fund manager John A. Paulson donated $US400 million to Harvard University in 2015.

The gift, which amounted to the largest in Harvard history, supported the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


T-13. Television mogul John W. Kluge donated $US400 million to Columbia University in 2007.

Kluge directed the funds go toward financial-aid packages to undergraduate and graduate students, making it the largest donation focused on student aid, according to a Columbia University press release.


T-13. Holocaust survivors Howard and Lottie Marcus donated $US400 million to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel in 2016.

Getty Images

The two made their fortune after investing early in Berkshire Hathaway.

The donation was likely the single largest charitable gift in Israel’s history, according to The Wall Street Journal.


8. Terry Gou, founder of electronics company Foxconn, donated $US454 million to fund a cancer hospital at National Taiwan University in 2007.

Terry Gou, the head of Hon Hai (Foxconn), manager of one million ‘animals’

NTU President Lee Si-chen said the donation would be the largest to a university medical school in the past 40 years, according to the Taipei Times.

The donation totals $US559 million in today’s dollars.


T-7. In 2015, Knight donated $US500 million to Oregon Health & Science University to fund cancer research.

Source: OHSU.edu


T-7. Helen Diller, wife of real estate billionaire Sanford Diller, donated $US500 million to the University of California-San Francisco last year.

Getty Images

The gift went toward building a new hospital at the University’s Parnassus Heights campus, according to the UCSF website.


T-7. Knight donated $US500 million to Oregon University in 2016, the largest donation to a public flagship university in US history.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Phil and his wife, Penny, donated the money to go toward a new science complex.

The sum amounts to $US539 million adjusted for inflation.


T-3. Florence Irving donated $US600 million in funds to Columbia University and NewYork-Presbyterian to fund cancer research on behalf of her and her husband, Herbert.

Florence made the donation in 2017, a year after her husband’s passing. The sum amounts to $US625 million in today’s dollars.

Herbert Irving earned his wealth through founding Global Frozen Foods, which later became Sysco.


T-3. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife, Betty, donated $US600 million over 10 years to the California Institute of Technology in 2001.

At the time, the donation was the largest ever to an institute of higher learning, according to Caltech’s website.

The sum amounts to $US866 million in today’s dollars.


2. Anil Agarwal, an Indian metals and mining magnate who has a net worth of $US3.5 billion, donated $US1 billion to fund a research university in Odisha.

In 2006, the donation marked the largest single gift to a higher-education institution, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Today, the sum amounts to $US1.2 billion adjusted for inflation.


1. Michael Bloomberg’s donation of $US1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University.

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesMichael Bloomberg speaks at the DNC.

Bloomberg intended his gift go toward making JHU “need-blind,” or admitting students regardless of their financial background. The gift is the largest donation to an individual American college, according to Inside Higher Ed.

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