Henry Kravis Pledges $100 Million for New Business School building
Columbia University’s The Record, October 15, 2010.
During his first semester at Columbia Business School more than 40 years ago, Henry R. Kravis took a marketing course in which the professor asked how many students wanted to work at Procter & Gamble, the giant consumer products company. Everybody’s hand went up except his; even then, Kravis knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur.
In the decades since his 1969 graduation, Kravis became a pioneer in the private equity industry, and today is cochair and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., which has $55 billion in assets under management. On Oct. 5, he came to West Harlem to announce that he has pledged $100 million to the business school to support the construction of its new facilities within the University’s long-term campus plan in the old Manhattanville manufacturing area.
It is the largest gift in the school’s history. One of the school’s two new buildings will be named the Henry R. Kravis Building in recognition of his generosity.
At the announcement, Kravis stressed that his donation isn’t solely about bricks and mortar. “Quite frankly, to me a building is a means to an end,” he said. “What matters to me much more … is what happens in and around this building, and the importance that it has on the community, that it has on the students, and … on the city.”
Community leaders from the Harlem area and dozens of current business school students and alumni attended the announcement at Uptown Grand on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard near 125th Street. In addition to Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger and business school Dean R. Glenn Hubbard, speakers included two recent graduates who have applied their experience in the business school’s social entrepreneurship program to the financial and housing needs in Upper Manhattan communities.
Justine Zinkin (BUS’02) is chief executive officer of Credit Where Credit Is Due Inc., a credit union that offers banking services, financial counseling and education to Upper Manhattan residents. She went to business school because despite a decade working in community development, she felt she lacked the technical skills needed to effect change. She was one of the first students in the school’s new social enterprise concentration. Zinkin told Kravis that as a result of his gift, the school “can now realize its vision to create a campus of shared opportunity, providing immense benefits to the local neighborhood in the form of jobs, business and cultural resources.”
Another speaker was Thomas Campbell, a 2009 Business School graduate who passed up a chance to take a job on Wall Street to found his own company, ThoroBird, which provides affordable housing in economically distressed communities in the tri-state area. “It’s tough to make your mark in this industry, but I wasn’t intimidated because I was more than ready,” he said. Between his professors and the business school’s Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, “I’d been taught … how to build a business.”
In his remarks, Bollinger thanked Kravis for his generosity not just in endowing the building but for making it something that would connect Columbia to the city. Kravis, he said, “is a person who cares enormously about the ways in which institutions connect to surrounding communities. That is a perfect match for this project.” Hubbard also expressed his appreciation for the gift and noted that the new buildings will aid in the creation of a community of entrepreneurship, which he called “the core” of the school.
“Our new home in Manhattanville will reflect the fast-paced, high-tech and highly social character of business in the 21st century,” said Hubbard. “Further, it will allow students, alumni and neighboring communities to collaborate and develop new ideas that not only transform business practice, but also reinforce the potential for the application of business principles to solve multifaceted problems and improve the world in which we live.”
Kravis has previously given substantial financial support to various business school initiatives, including Columbia CaseWorks, the Meyer Feldberg Distinguished Fellowship Program and multiple endowed professorships.