Baltimore philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger has pledged $50 million to the Johns Hopkins University over the next five years, the institution's biggest gift ever and one of the largest in the history of American higher education.
Mr. Krieger, an 86-year-old businessman and lawyer who graduated from Hopkins in 1928, stipulated that he will match up to $50 million in gifts to the endowment for the university's financially strapped School of Arts and Sciences.
University officials are confident they can raise the $50 million in matching funds, although it will require stepped-up giving to the arts and sciences' endowment, which has recently been receiving about $4 million in gifts a year.
Only five other U.S. universities have received gifts larger than Mr. Krieger's, according to a list compiled by Hopkins.
Mr. Krieger, a graduate of the School of Arts and Sciences, called the school "the heart and the nucleus of the university."
"Raising money for the school is really not too easy," he said. "People are more inclined to give to the graduate schools, the professional schools, things of that nature. I decided I was going to venture into a field that maybe wasn't that popular."
The total endowment for the arts and sciences school, the biggest of the university's two main divisions, stood at $130 million at the end of September, Hopkins officials said.
Overall, the university, including the School of Medicine, has an endowment of $639 million. That places it in the top two dozen nationwide but is considered small for a university of Hopkins' stature.
Hopkins said it has not decided on all of the specific uses for the Krieger gift but will use the interest earned by $20 million of it to endow 10 full professorships named for Mr. Krieger and his longtime friend, former Hopkins President Milton S. Eisenhower. The teaching positions will be sprinkled through several fields within the arts and sciences school, officials said.
The school also plans to use income from the gift to increase financial aid to students.
"I think it's just wonderful," said Hopkins President William C. Richardson. "Three years ago, when I was elected, I said that one of the areas I wanted to emphasize was a substantial increase in the arts and sciences endowment. Mr. Krieger has really made it possible for us to reach that goal."
An infusion of $100 million would be a dramatic boost for the School of Arts and Sciences, which has struggled with budget problems and faces substantial deficits in the years ahead, school officials said.
As part of a budget-balancing plan, the university has reduced the number of arts and sciences faculty members from 256 to 245 in the last five years while increasing substantially the number of students.
Other Hopkins divisions, including engineering and medicine, have had to pump millions of dollars into the School of Arts and Sciences in the last few years.
The university has had long-standing plans to end that subsidy next year. The Krieger gift will help the arts and sciences school avoid major retrenchments, officials said.
"This magnificent challenge from the Krieger Fund really is going to help us out," said Lloyd Armstrong, dean of the arts and sciences school. "We, like all arts and sciences schools, have financial difficulties. The first priority must be to cover the deficits. But this gives us the opportunity then to move to the next level of excellence."
The school's problems have risen mainly to a drop in state assistance, a growing demand for student financial aid and a slower-than-expected growth in federal grants, Dr. Armstrong said.
The university typically counts on a 5 percent return on endowment, meaning that the Krieger gift would generate $5 million annually if the university raises the full $50 million in matching funds.
A university typically spends only the interest from its endowment. The endowment's assets, which of ten include stocks, bonds, property and cash, are generally considered untouchable.
Hopkins takes only 3 percent of its operating income from its endowment, a smaller amount than better-endowed universities such as Harvard.
Mr. Krieger said he made his gift a challenge grant because he didn't think generating that large amount of money should be "a one-man job."
Although Mr. Krieger would not be required to give the entire $50 million if the school's fund-raising lags, he has told university officials he would reconsider if that happens.
Mr. Krieger, who for years has been part of a group that advises the president of Hopkins, told Dr. Richardson about a year ago that he wanted to make a major gift to the arts and sciences endowment. Mr. Krieger worked out plans for the gift, including details of the Krieger/Eisenhower professorships, during meetings with Hopkins officials over the next six months.
The gift took final shape in late July, and Hopkins officials have been waiting for Mr. Krieger's foundation to give final approval. That came Friday with a vote by the foundation's board.