Yale receives $150 million gift from private equity CEO for new campus and student center

An alumnus who said Yale University changed his life has given the Ivy League school a near-record $150 million to fund a new student and campus center.

The gift from financier and alumnus Stephen Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of the private equity firm Blackstone Group, is the second largest in Yale history, the school said. Forbes magazine places Schwarzman's net worth at $13.2 billion.

It will be used to turn two buildings, the Commons dining hall and part of the adjacent Memorial Hall, into an 88,300-square-foot complex serving as an "educational, social and cultural hub." It will include space for performances, exhibitions, meetings, dining and gathering places.

"Yale changed my life," said Schwarzman, who graduated in 1969. "I met professors, alumni. I saw America from a different perspective. I learned a different type of value system, of giving back, of service to your country and your community."

The university approached him to give a "sizable donation" with several alternatives, Schwarzman said. "This project evolved over time and is the one I preferred," he said.

Yale says it hired Michael Kaiser, longtime president of The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., to advise it on the renovation, programming and staffing for the center. The school hopes it will open in 2020.

Schwarzman, a philanthropist, said deciding to give such a large gift to Yale, with an endowment last year of about $24 billion, involves complex decisions.

"There are many important and worthy charitable activities," he said. "I'll be able to do many other things, hopefully."