Henry Kravis Pledges $100 Million to Columbia Business School

Henry Kravis, a Columbia MBA (Class of 1969), made headlines yesterday when he announced a gift of $100 million to Columbia Business School. The donation will help fund the construction of Columbia Business School’s new facilities in Manhattanville, just north of the Columbia’s Morningside Campus.

Of course, when a man gives $100 million (the largest gift in the school’s history), the school has to put his name on something. Accordingly, one of the school’s two new buildings will be named The Henry R. Kravis Building in recognition of his gift. The new building will open “in about six years,” according to Dean Glenn Hubbard.

Henry Kravis is one of the most successful men on Wall Street. He is the co-founder, co-chairman, and co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), the noted private equity and buyout firm. Kravis and his partners, as much as anyone else, pioneered the use of leveraged buyouts in the 1980s to tap into companies’ unrealized potential. All of the MBAs who rushed into private equity over the past 15 years have Kravis and his friends to thank for blazing that trail before them.

Kravis is no stranger to involvement at his alma mater, currently serving as the co-chair of the Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers. He’s also been very active with his undergraduate school — donated $75 million in 2008 to Claremont McKenna College in 2008, which led to opening of that school’s new Kravis Center.

This is a real win for Columbia. Also the business school had already been slated to move into a new building in Manhattanville, the entire project (a very ambitious one) has already taken a long time to get off the ground, and the financial crisis of the past two years hasn’t helped. Uris Hall has long been one of our least favorite buildings (maybe our absolute least favorite) among top MBA programs’ facilities, and while you should choose a school for more than just its facilities, it’s been hard to overlook Uris Hall and its cramped setup. Even Dean Hubbard himself has acknowledged that the building has been a constraint for the school.

Who’s left? We’re still waiting for Kellogg to announce more definitive plans for its new building. By then, we will have completed the new (or at least significantly improved) building renaissance at nearly every top MBA program in the United States.

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