Billionaire media entrepreneur John Kluge will donate $400 million to Columbia University. The donation will be used only for student financial aid, with half earmarked for undergraduates. Kluge, who attended Columbia on a scholarship and graduated in 1937, has previously said, “I’d rather by far invest in people than buildings. If I can infuse a mind to improve itself, that’ll pass on to their children, and to their children’s children."
Columbia is in the middle of a big capital campaign to raise $4 billion, and now Kluge's gift, which will be given upon his death, puts the school at the halfway mark. (Columbia's current endowment is $5 billion, which is much less than Harvard's $30+ billion.) Kluge had previously donated $110 million to the school, but this donation is considered one of the largest individual gifts ever to a university.
According to Forbes, Kluge's self-made fortune is estimated to be over $9 billion, most of his money coming after selling his media company to WorldCom; his "eclectic portfolio" now includes "restaurants (Bennigan's, Steak & Ale), medical devices, peanuts." And Columbia is still reeling from news that the executive director of undergraduate financial aid was promoting a student-loan company he sat on the board of and owned stock in.