Here's how a bold public school got a billionaire alum to donate $25 million

Key Points
  • Blackstone co-founder Steve Schwarzman donates $25 million to the suburban Philadelphia public high school he graduated from.
  • Schwarzman says he required a computer literacy curriculum as a mandatory condition of his gift.
  • Understanding technology is important "whether you're doing auto repair or working at Google," he says.
Blackstone CEO: We need to change education paradigm

Public school superintendents listen up.

Abington High School, outside Philadelphia, just got one of its former students, billionaire private equity titan and philanthropist Steve Schwarzman, to donate $25 million.

How did the school do it?

Schwarzman, co-founder of Blackstone Group, told CNBC on Thursday: "I was asked. That's always the way something happens."

"It starts with a phone call and ends with a visit," he said on "Squawk Box."

The school needed $100 million but could only write a check for $75 million, Schwarzman said. "They asked me to fill the difference."

Abington officials said, "The donation is considered to be the largest ever given to an individual public school."

The money will help build a new science and technology center and allow for a "full-scale renovation of the 1950s-era high school building."

Schwarzman, chairman and CEO of Blackstone, said he required a computer literacy curriculum as a mandatory condition of his gift.

"They are going to start in the seventh grade and learn all the modern skills," he said, stressing the importance of technology "whether you're doing auto repair or working at Google."

Computers will be provided to students for use in school and at home.

Schwarzman told CNBC he recognizes that his gift is out of the ordinary.

"It's not part of our culture" to give to public schools, he said. "We just assume that someone else will take care of that."

Known as much for his generosity as his business acumen, Schwarzman has made education a centerpiece of his philanthropy.

  • Schwarzman put up $100 million of his own money to start Schwarzman Scholars, a program modeled after the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford in the U.K. Schwarzman Scholars spend a year studying for a master's degree and living in Beijing at Tsinghua University, which hosts the program. The first class enrolled in 2016.
  • In 2015, Schwarzman donated $40 million to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides tuition assistance largely to minority New York City students to attend Catholic high schools.
  • Schwarzman, also in 2015, gave $150 million to his alma mater, Yale University, for a new student center.
  • In 2008, Schwarzman donated $100 million to help renovate the New York Public Library's main branch.