With a staggering $350 million gift to Johns Hopkins University on Jan. 27, Michael Bloomberg has become the largest living donor to education in American history.
The NY Times broke the news that with this latest sum, the 70-year-old financial giant has gifted more than $1.1 billion to his alma mater. Not bad for an engineering major whose first gift to the school was a $5 donation in 1965.
"Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it," Bloomberg said in a statement issued through the university. "Giving is only meaningful if the money will make a difference in people's lives, and I know of no other institution that can make a bigger difference in lives around the world through its groundbreaking research — especially in the field of public health."
Over four decades, Bloomberg's generous donations to Hopkins have funded a physics hall, a children's hospital, a school for public health, a malaria institute, a building for stem cell research and a new library wing. Additional funds have also financed 20 percent of all need-based financial aid grants to undergraduates over the past few years and various art installations.
"The modern story of Hopkins is inextricably linked to him," said Ronald J. Daniels, the university’s president, to the Times. "When you look at these great investments that have transformed American higher education, it's Rockefeller, it's Carnegie, it's Mellon, it's Stanford — and it's Bloomberg."
Indeed, Bloomberg's involvement with Hopkins runs deeper than just donations. The Times reports that he is very hands-on with how his money his spent — with the latest project involving genetically engineered mosquitoes incapable of transmitting malaria, a disease that killed upwards of 1.2 million in 2010.
"We're trying to build a better mosquito," he said of the work underway at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins. "Literally a mosquito that will drive out the old mosquitoes but does not carry the parasite. Whether it will work or not, I don't know. I've put well over $100 million into it so far. It has potential to change the world."
Bloomberg's latest gift will see $250 million spent on faculty devoted to such projects as the global water crisis and urban planning and $100 million for financial aid. He has vowed to give away his entire $25 billion dollar fortune in his lifetime — a daunting task that will be handled primarily through his foundation. As Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, explained to Fast Company, "If he's going to give his fortune away while he's alive, he'll be moving at a faster pace than Bill Gates [because he is older]. He'll have to shovel so much money out the door; it's ambitious."
Ambition being something Bloomberg clearly has in spades, I'd say he's more than up for the challenge.
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