Another Wealthy US Citizen Breaks A Record With University Gift

Tom Burroughes Group Editor November 3, 2017

Another Wealthy US Citizen Breaks A Record With University Gift

In the space of two weeks, three wealthy Americans have broken records with philanthropic gifts to prominent universities, suggesting this area remains hot for a certain type of donor, and seeing the use of particular structures.

Another week, another big philanthropic donation by a US citizen to a university. 

This time the donor is Ken Griffin, founder and chief executive officer of investment firm Citadel. He is donating $125 million to the University of Chicago's Department of Economics.

“The Kenneth C Griffin Charitable Fund intends to make the second-largest gift in the history of the University of Chicago, supporting the Department of Economics in expanding its leadership in education and research with wide-ranging public impact, while increasing financial support for students,” the university said.

The gift will bring Griffin’s total giving in support of UChicago Economics to nearly $150 million.

The gift will support the development of future leaders in the field of economics by expanding resources for faculty, providing critical financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students, and creating a research incubator. In recognition of this gift, the Economics Department will be renamed the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics.

The university is renowned for its roster of Nobel Prize winners in economics and other disciplines. Richard Thaler, linked to fields such as behavioral finance, won the prize this year. Arguably its most famous winner was the late Milton Friedman, whose writings are associated with monetarism and a broad support for free enterprise capitalism. Other winners include Paul Samuelson, Ronald Coase, George Stigler, Herbert Simon, Harry Markowitz and Merton Miller; Gary Becker and Myron Scholes. 

Griffin joined the university’s board of trustees in 2014. 

The gift is the latest in a number of large contributions to US universities. Staying in the state of Illinois, The University of Illinois has been paid its largest-ever donation, worth $150 million, from the head of a Chicago private equity firm. 

Separately, the University of Notre Dame recently announced what it says is a first-of-its-kind, $100 million unrestricted commitment from Kenn Ricci, an aviation industry luminary who is a Notre Dame alumnus and trustee, and his wife, Pamela. The commitment is the single largest unrestricted guaranteed gift ever committed to the university. The structure used for the transfer is a Philanthropic Succession Partnership, developed by Ricci, who is the founder of Directional Aviation Capital, a holding company for aviation companies he has founded or acquired. Ricci's involvement in the aviation industry stretches back more than three decades.

This news service has been running a series of commentaries on philanthropy by noted author and industry expert, Susan Winer. To see her commentary on major gifts, for example, click here. Winer is chief operating officer and founder of Strategic Philanthropy, and based out of Chicago. 


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