A Billionaire Hedge Fund Manager Made Harvard’s Biggest Donation Ever

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Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson donated $400 million to Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the New York Times reports. Harvard’s engineering school, which is expanding across the river from Cambridge, Mass., will be renamed the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The gesture marks the largest gift in the university’s 379-year history, surpassing last-year’s record-setting donation by Hong Kong-born investor Gerald Chan, who gave $350 million to the School of Public Health.

Paulson graduated from Harvard Business School in 1980 and went on to found Paulson & Company in 1994. Since then, the company has grown from managing $2 million with one employee to managing more than $19 billion with 125 workers worldwide.

Paulson’s gift is part of a $6.5 billion fundraising campaign the university launched in September 2013. The donation is part of a string of high-sum donations in recent years to schools with already large endowments, highlighting the growing divergence between the have and have-not universities. Moody’s Investors Service followed 208 private universities over 10 years to track giving patterns. The study found that schools with more than $1 billion in cash and investments claimed 67% of total donations in 2013, up from 62% in 2003, while universities with less than $100 million in cash brought in less than 3% of total donations.

Schools with smaller endowments rely more heavily on tuition revenue to keep things running, whereas colleges with large cash reserves can weather bad years and still keep tuition low.

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