Columbia University announced yesterday that John Kluge will give $400 million to the school to support financial aid.
The donation will be the largest given by an individual to a school in the history of American higher education, according to a tally of large donations compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Kluge, who is 92 years old, is a 1937 graduate of Columbia who benefited from financial aid while he studied there. At one point the wealthiest man in America, Kluge built a media empire and is currently worth $9 billion, according to Forbes. Half of his gift will go towards financial aid for students of Columbia College, the university’s largest undergraduate unit, and the other half will support fellowships and aid in other parts of the university. Kluge had previously given gifts totaling $110 million to Columbia.
The largest-ever gift to Yale is the $100 million anonymous donation to the School of Music given in 2005, which allowed the school to eliminate tuition. But there are also donors in Yale’s history whose total gifts to the University, when adjusted for inflation, match Kluge’s most recent contribution to Columbia, Yale Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said.
Reichenbach said this donation is a step forward for all universities, not just Columbia.
“This gift sets a new standard,” she said. “People who have wealth of that magnitude will now consider making gifts of that size. I congratulate Columbia on the gift.”
Like Yale, Columbia is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar fundraising campaign. Columbia aims to raise $4 billion during the campaign, $1 billion more than Yale’s goal. Columbia’s fundraising materials stress the need for the university to catch up to some of its Ivy League peers in terms of its endowment. Last year, Columbia’s endowment was worth $6 billion and supported 21,000 students, while Yale’s was worth $18 billion and supported just over 11,000 students.
Kluge has also given money and assets to other institutions, including the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia.