Blackstone chief donates $188 million to Oxford University

Key Points
  • The Blackstone CEO says the donation will fund the Schwarzman Centre to support subjects from history to music.
  • Oxford University says the center will consider the impact of artificial intelligence.
  • New facilities funded by the donation will include a 500-seat concert hall and a 250-seat auditorium.
Stephen 'Steve' Schwarzman, co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Blackstone Group LP, speaks at an Economic Club of Washington luncheon in Washington.
Bloomberg | Getty Images

The head of private-equity firm Blackstone has pledged 150 million pounds ($188.37 million) to Oxford University, the biggest single donation in its history, to fund a centre for humanities that would also house an institute to study the ethics of artificial intelligence.

Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, chief executive and co-founder of Blackstone which has about $500 billion in assets, said the donation would fund the Schwarzman Centre that would support programmes ranging from history to music.

The centre will also house a new Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.).

"For nearly 1,000 years, the study of the humanities at Oxford has been core to Western civilization and scholarship. We need to ensure that its insights and principles can be adapted to today's dynamic world," Schwarzman said in a statement.

The university said the center would consider the impact of A.I., which could "challenge the very nature of what it means to be human and transform most aspects of our lives".

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said in the statement: "If A.I. is to benefit humanity we must understand its moral and ethical implications. Oxford with its rich history in humanities and philosophy is ideally placed to do this."

About a quarter of Oxford University students study humanities, including modern languages, theology, philosophy, and English.

New facilities funded by the donation would include a 500-seat concert hall and a 250-seat auditorium.

Schwarzman has also donated to U.S. universities, including $350 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and $150 million to Yale. He founded a $575 million international scholarship program in 2013 at China's Tsinghua University.