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Students, alumni, and top University administrators gathered Thursday afternoon for a celebratory dedication of the Office of Financial Aid to Kenneth C. Griffin ’89.
Griffin, founder of Chicago-based investment firm Citadel, donated $150 million to the University in February. At least $125 million of the gift will go toward hundreds of scholarships named after Griffin, for whom the Office of Financial Aid has also been renamed.
“Ken Griffin’s generosity has really been so large that it’s really nice to mark that with a celebratory event and the dedication of the financial aid office,” now Griffin Director of Financial Aid Sally C. Donahue said in an interview shortly before the event.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 kicked off the event by pointing to the impact of financial aid on his life as an undergraduate, joking that were it not for Harvard’s aid, he’d probably be in prison today. Fitzsimmons went on to laud the University’s constant commitment to financial aid, even during the 2008 financial crisis.
University President Drew G. Faust recounted that when she walks through the Yard on freshman move-in day in August, many students typically stop and thank her for the financial aid that Harvard offers. Now, Faust said, students will be mentioning Griffin.
“I think maybe those students are going to come up to me and next year be saying, not thank you Drew Faust, not thank you Harvard, but they’ll know. And they will say thank you, Ken Griffin,” said Faust.
Griffin, accompanied by his mother and sister, spoke about the priceless experience he had at Harvard and the way the faculty and staff immediately encouraged him to pursue his passions.
“The resources at Harvard—its professors, our fellow students, the libraries, its alumni—created for me the opportunity to pursue my passions in finance,” Griffin explained. “I set up my own trading center in my Cabot dorm room…with my computer, my fax machine, and my telephone. And Drew, this was before the day’s of cellphones. There were actually pay phones all over campus.”
Griffin said that he hopes that his gift can help provide a Harvard education to students from around the world, regardless of their backgrounds.
“That opportunity shouldn’t depend on coming from a wealthy family,” Griffin said. “It shouldn’t depend on knowing the right people.”
At the end of the celebration, Fitzsimmons pointed to the new plaque in the financial aid office commemorating Griffin and said that it will help undergraduates remain mindful of the generosity of donors.
“As great as this place is and as great as [the students] are, they need to think about the example that Ken Griffin has provided, and they need to think about paying forward, paying back…. These things don’t happen automatically. They happen because people really are thoughtful and they really care about the next generation," he said.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.
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