Mr. Griffin announced Wednesday night that he was donating $150 million to Harvard, the biggest single gift to the college ever. The money will largely go to the college's financial aid program as Harvard seeks to blunt criticism that higher education has become the province of the 1 percent.
"This was an opportunity to make a statement about Harvard as one of the most important higher education institutions in the world," Mr. Griffin said in an interview.
Other colleges have drawn bigger individual donations: Michael R. Bloomberg pledged $350 million to Johns Hopkins University last year, the latest in a one-man $1.1 billion capital campaign. But Harvard has long been the powerhouse of the university fund-raising circuit, with its latest campaign aiming to collect a staggering $6.5 billion.
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Thursday's donation is part of that initiative, which kicked off with $2.8 billion already in the bank.
"I was absolutely thrilled," Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard's president, said in an interview. "Financial aid has been one of my highest priorities as president."