Nike’s Phil Knight Gives $400 Million to Stanford for Leadership Program

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Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight has donated $400 million to create a scholarship program at Stanford University.

In an announcement from the college made on his 78th birthday, Knight will be partnering with the college’s outgoing president, John L. Hennessy, to create the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, which touts a goal of grooming global leaders.  The program is co-named with Hennessy, who is stepping down as president to run the new program as the inaugural director, writes Ahiza Garcia for CNN Money.

The gift makes the total endowment for the program $750 million, causing it to become the largest fully-endowed scholarship program in the world.

“John and I dream of a future 20, 30 or 50 years from now, when thousands of graduates — who can think outside the box as skilled problem-solvers — will be working together for a more peaceful, habitable world,” Knight said in a statement from Stanford.

The scholarship will be given to 100 high-achieving individuals every year from a variety of backgrounds.  The money is expected to allow these students to pursue graduate or professional programs “designed to develop scholars’ capacity to lead ambitious change in a complex world.”

More than 80% of the endowment will be put toward covering students’ living expenses and education at one of the seven graduate and professional schools at the university for three consecutive years, reports Alessandra Stanley for The New York Times.

The donation is the largest gift from any individual to the college, and matches the largest amount ever given to Harvard last year by Wall Street hedge fund billionaire John Paulson, writes Alexander Smith for CNBC.  The largest donation given to any school was made in 2013, also by Knight, in the amount of $500 million to the University of Oregon.

“We wanted to create something enduring, that would be unlike anything else currently available to the world’s brightest minds, and that would make the biggest impact possible toward solving global challenges affecting the environment, health, education and human rights,” Hennessy said in the statement.

The previous highest gift, $100 million, came from website investor Robert King and his wife, Dorothy.

Knight earned his MBA from Stanford in 1962 and is currently worth $25.7 billion.  He has been a supporter of the school in previous years, having given money to the graduate school of business in addition to offering professorships and athletics.

The college will start to accept applications in the summer of 2017 with the first class expected to be admitted in the fall of 2018.

Stanford works hard at fundraising, having raised a record $1.6 billion in the past year alone through June 30, according to the Council for Aid to Education, which tracks giving to universities.  A record $40.3 billion was collectively raised by colleges and universities in the United States, with a disproportionate amount going to the wealthiest colleges.

Nike was co-founded by Knight in the 1960s and has functioned under his leadership since that time.  He is currently ranked among the richest in the world, with a net worth of $25.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

A frequent and generous philanthropist, Knight has made sizable donations to the University of Oregon and its health-care affiliate.