Leon Cooperman ’67, chairman and CEO of Omega Advisors and a member of Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers, has pledged a gift of $25 million to support the construction of the School’s new home in Manhattanville.
The gift is the second largest donation in support of the cutting-edge facilities, which will be part of Columbia University’s expansion just north of its Morningside Heights Campus. Henry R. Kravis ’69, cofounder, cochairman, and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and cochair of the School’s Board of Overseers, pledged $100 million for the project in October 2010.
As an alumnus, Cooperman has a long history of supporting Columbia Business School. In 2007, he established the Cooperman Scholarship Challenge, which helped to create more than 40 need-based scholarships. He also created the Leon Cooperman Scholarship in 2000 to support students who need financial assistance, with preference given to graduates of New York City public schools; the scholarship currently supports seven MBA students. In 1995, he endowed the Leon Cooperman Professorship of Finance and Economics, a chair held by Professor Geert Bekaert since 2000.
“Leon Cooperman’s generosity toward the Business School has given students the key to a door that would otherwise have been closed to them,” Dean Glenn Hubbard said. “Now, he is making sure that these world-class students have facilities that meet their needs. With this extraordinary gift, Columbia Business School will not just transition to a new home, it will thrive there.”
Cooperman has also shared advice from his 45 years in the financial industry with current MBA students, as he did when he spoke on campus in March as part of the David and Lyn Silfen Leadership Series. During that event, Cooperman talked about his humble beginnings as a self-described “poor boy from the Bronx.” He said that his rags-to-riches trajectory influences his approach to business and life: he places family, friends, ethics, and charity atop his list of values.
“When you achieve financial security, give back to those who are less fortunate,” Cooperman said. “When in a position to help others, do so. You can’t take it with you.” With the announcement of the Manhattanville gift, he added: “I strongly believe it is my moral imperative to give others the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”
Cooperman and his wife, Toby, have taken the Giving Pledge advocated by Warren Buffett, MS ’51, and Bill Gates, a call for the wealthiest Americans to give the majority of their fortunes to charity.
“We are committed to giving back a large portion of our financial success to the community at large. I am particularly oriented toward helping organizations that have made a difference in my life,” Cooperman said. “Columbia provided me with an excellent business education, opened the door to my successful nearly 25-year career at Goldman Sachs, and was the place where I made friendships that have lasted my entire adult life. It’s both a pleasure and an honor to be able to give back and make sure other students following in my footsteps have a quality education in a state-of-the-art facility.”
The School’s Manhattanville Campus — designed by renowned New York architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro — will reflect the fast-paced, high-tech, and highly social character of business in the 21st century. The School’s new buildings will encompass approximately 450,000 square feet, resulting in a net additional 170,000 square feet. The facilities will create multi-functional spaces that foster a sense of community — spaces where students, faculty members, alumni, and practitioners can gather to exchange ideas.