“Mike Smith was critical in terms of making the case for financial aid, and I know he has a very, very good relationship with Ken,” Fitzsimmons said. “Oftentimes when people are making gifts of any kind they are also thinking of the relationships with the people who are part of that organization.”
FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal said that Smith was traveling on Wednesday and could not be reached. But in a Wednesday’s press release, Smith praised Griffin.
“Ken’s astounding philanthropic leadership has set financial aid—one of the most important priorities of the College’s capital campaign—on a lasting foundation,” Smith said in the release.
Griffin’s gift is among a recent surge of nine-figure donations. Johns Hopkins, Yale, and Cornell all received the largest gifts in their histories last year, a $350 million gift, $250 million gift, and a $133 million gift, respectively. Griffin’s $150 million donation to Harvard, which easily surpasses any individual gift in the College’s history, would not even rank in the top 25 private gifts to higher education, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education almanac.
The largest philanthropic gift to the University prior to that of Griffin came from Hansjörg Wyss, who received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1965 and has given two $125 million gifts in recent years. Before Wyss, the largest donation came from David Rockefeller ’36, the grandson of the famous oil magnate, who donated $100 million to the University in 2008 to support international programs and the expansion of arts education. That amount matched a $100 million gift from Eli and Edythe Broad in 2005 donated for genetic research.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.