|Feb. 24, 2016|
Philip Knight of Nike to Give $400 Million to Stanford Scholars
Philip H. Knight, the co-founder and chairman of Nike Inc., said on Monday that he had pledged to give Stanford University $400 million to recruit graduate students around the globe to address society’s most intractable problems, including poverty and climate change.
The gift to the new Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, which is modeled on the Rhodes scholarships, matches one of the largest individual donations ever to a university, the $400 million that John A. Paulson, the hedge fund tycoon, gave to Harvard last year to improve its engineering school. The Stanford project is meant to improve the world.
“This is using education to benefit mankind and I think it really could be transformative,” Mr. Knight said in a phone interview. “I jumped on it right away.”
Its ambitious mandate is the brainchild of Stanford’s president, John L. Hennessy, a computer scientist and tech entrepreneur, who plans to step down this summer. During his 16-year tenure, Mr. Hennessy nurtured the school’s symbiotic relationship with Silicon Valley and increased Stanford’s endowment to more than $22 billion from about $9 billion in 2000.
Philip Knight, chairman of Nike.
Credit Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
The program, which will be announced on Wednesday at Stanford, has raised $750 million, making it one of the largest fully funded scholarship endowments in the world.
Starting in 2018, the program will annually offer full tuition and board to 100 students — a third of them from the United States and two-thirds from abroad — who will gain admittance to one of Stanford’s seven graduate schools and commit to working on important issues in small, multidisciplinary teams.
One problem Mr. Hennessy said he might assign to a team is to analyze the $100 million donation that Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, made to Newark public schools in 2010, and that has not been widely seen as a success. “Nobody understood the real difficulty in making significant change in the public education system,” Mr. Hennessy said. His scholars would be asked, he added, “ ‘How do you build a structure that will successfully deploy those funds for the benefit of all?’ ”
A representative for Mr. Zuckerberg pointed out in response that, among other things, graduation rates in Newark had gone up 13 points in the last few years.
Mr. Hennessy said he was confident that this money would be well spent. “To say we can solve all the world’s problems is naïve,” he said. “To say we can educate people to make a significant difference in trying to solve those problems — that’s an achievable goal.”