Yale Students Eating in the Schwarzman Center Cannot Correctly Identify the Face of Stephen Schwarzman
Percent of students who thought the pictured individual was Stephen Schwarzman (left to right): 19%; 25%; 9%; 17%; 15%; 15%. (From left to right: Stephen Schwarzman ’69; Jim Walton of Walmart; business magnate George Soros; media mogul Rupert Murdoch; Hank Paulson, former U.S. Treasury Secretary; and former Yale President Rick Levin)
Imagine the Schwarzman Center. But first, imagine the man.
Despite a $150 million donation to the University in May 2015, a shocking new poll has found that Stephen Schwarzman ’69 remains personally unknown on campus — even in the building now bearing his name.
When we put his face in a lineup with other elderly white men of influence — from Washington to Wall Street, and even to Woodbridge Hall — Schwarzman was correctly identified only marginally more often than random chance. Dining hall workers in Commons admitted to having no knowledge of the man who endowed their workspace. And an astounding 15 percent of Yalies eating lunch misidentified former Yale President Rick Levin as Schwarzman.
Despite Facebook statuses and strongly worded Yale Daily News op-eds suggesting otherwise, Yalies seem to know little about the man who has financed, in the words of one respondent, “the creation of a glorified bar where I’ll hopefully drink a lot senior year.”
Lunchgoers who could identify Schwarzman associated him with one thing, and one thing only: money.
“Schwarzman is irrelevant other than that he’s some crusty old rich white guy,” said a freshman in Calhoun.
In fact, only 1 in every 10 students surveyed had a positive impression of the chairman and CEO of The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm based in Manhattan. Nearly 40 percent of respondents admitted feeling somewhat or very negative about Schwarzman.
Yet a majority of Yalies polled professed no knowledge whatsoever of Schwarzman, his life or the origins of his wealth. To most, he’s about as enigmatic as Skull and Bones, a society that Schwarzman happens to be a member of. Over 70 percent of students polled confessed to knowing nothing at all.
In a 2008 profile by The New Yorker, in which the Yale alum was dubbed “private equity’s designated villain,” Schwarzman responded to recurring negative press by saying, “How does it feel? Unattractive. No thinking person wants to be reduced to a caricature.”
It seems that over 50 years after being rejected by Harvard College — a rebuff that the magnate claims inspired his landmark gift — this unattractive-feeling thinking person continues to confront something even worse than caricaturization. For, after all, how can Yalies caricature him, if they can’t even recognize him?
Maybe they’ll just have to imagine.