Bloomberg adds to gift to Hopkins Financial news mogul gives $45 million more to fund-raising drive

Effort now has $1.04 billion

Graduate also made $55 million contribution to the campaign in 1995

October 11, 1998|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Michael R. Bloomberg, the financial news entrepreneur, has pledged an additional $45 million to the Johns Hopkins University, bringing his contribution to the school's current fund-raising campaign to $100 million, by far the biggest gift in the history of the school.

"I can't think of anything else you can do with your money that can give you as much satisfaction," said Bloomberg, 56, a 1964 graduate of Hopkins. "You can buy a yacht or you can help cure cancer. As far as which one is going to put a smile on my face as I'm falling asleep at night, I think the answer is clear."

The gift, announced last night at a dinner for donors to Hopkins' current fund-raising campaign, pushes the total for that campaign -- which ends in 2000 -- to $1.04 billion. In May, the board of trustees, which Bloomberg chairs, raised the goal of the campaign that began in 1994 from $900 million to $1.2 billion.

"This is spectacular, absolutely spectacular," said Hopkins President William R. Brody. "Michael has sent a strong message in many ways. This is a leadership gift, the type that is going to help a lot of American institutions of higher education, not just Johns Hopkins."

Much of Hopkins' fund-raising success in this campaign has paralleled steep increases in the stock market. Bloomberg said that it was no accident that he made this gift as those markets appear to enter a period of instability.

"That's one of the reasons I wanted to make this gift now," he said. "People should make gifts in down markets as well as up markets. The need goes on regardless of the market. To the extent I can be a catalyst for the others who might do the same is fine."

Bloomberg committed $55 million to the current campaign in 1995. By itself, that is the largest gift in Hopkins history, topping by $5 million the $50 million donated by Zanvyl Krieger in 1992.

"I always looked at that $55 million as the first tranche [payment] of a total gift to the campaign," Bloomberg said.

"I committed to pay that off in five years, and I paid it in three. So the time to do this was now. The $45 million brings the total to $100 million, which is what I always intended to do."

Combined with the $5 million he gave in 1988 for a new physics and astronomy building -- which is named for him -- the $1 million he gave in 1984 for an endowed professorship named after his mother, Charlotte, and a variety of smaller donations, Bloomberg has given Hopkins more than $115 million, according to university officials.

By comparison, the fund-raising campaign held in conjunction with Hopkins' centennial celebration in 1976 had a total goal of $100 million -- at the time the biggest campaign in the history of American higher education.

Bloomberg's gift ties for the ninth-largest private gift to U.S. higher education since 1967 -- fifth for living individuals -- according to a list compiled by the Chronicle for Higher Education.

The largest one-time gift ever was by the Lettie Pate Evans, Joseph B. Whitehead and Robert W. Woodruff foundations, which gave Emory University in Atlanta $295 million in Coca-Cola stock in 1996.

Bloomberg has designated $30 million of the latest $45 million for financial aid, primarily for undergraduates.

"The cost of education at a place like Hopkins keeps going up, and the public doesn't understand why," said Bloomberg, who recalled that when he was at Hopkins, tuition topped $1,000 a year for the first time.

It now stands at $22,680.

"I can say that Hopkins is run very efficiently. The people who work there are not terribly well paid. They are getting raises of 2-3-4 percent. You would lose them in the commercial field," Bloomberg said.

"Education at this level is a very competitive field. Hopkins needs to attract the best undergraduates because that helps attract the best graduate students and then the best faculty. It all feeds on itself."

Hopkins officials said that the money would primarily be used for giving grants instead of loans to students.

"We traditionally attract undergraduates who go on to graduate and professional school," Provost Steven Knapp said. "Some of them end up their education with $75,000 to $100,000 in debt. That is a burden that concerns us."

Robert Massa, dean of enrollment at the Homewood campus, noted that the percentage of Hopkins graduates continuing their education has dropped from 70 percent to 65 percent in the last few years.

"We don't know that the debt burden is causing that, but we're sure that's part of the reason," he said.

The School of Hygiene and Public Health is another major beneficiary of this $45 million -- $15 million is designated for that school, including $5 million of the financial aid money. That school received $20 million of Bloomberg's $55 million gift.

"Obviously we are thrilled and delighted," said Alfred Sommer, dean of that school, who noted that financial aid is particularly critical there.

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