In recognition of his historic gift to Harvard College, the School officially renamed its Financial Aid Office in honor of Ken Griffin ’89 on Thursday. This past February, Griffin made a gift of $150 million to the University, principally supporting need-based financial aid for undergraduates.
University leaders, friends, alumni, and students gathered at 86 Brattle St. — outside the office now bearing Griffin’s name — to thank him and recognize the impact this gift will have for generations to come.
“Ken Griffin’s extraordinarily generous gift will transform the lives of so many students at Harvard College,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “It will help underpin our long-standing commitment to making a Harvard College education affordable for any student, regardless of their financial means.”
In 2004, Harvard established a program known as the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative (HFAI) to bolster its existing financial aid offerings. HFAI helped ensure that a Harvard education was within reach of every admitted student by eliminating parental contributions for those whose household income was below a certain level (now at $65,000) and has been expanded in recent years. Currently, 60 percent of students receive some form of financial aid directly from the College and all undergraduates have the ability to graduate debt-free.
“Simply put, my Harvard experience changed my life,” said Griffin. “My hope is that with this gift we will make it possible for the best and brightest in our nation and in our world to have the same experience that I had here.”
Griffin is the founder and CEO of Citadel, a global financial institution that he started one year after graduating from Harvard. It now manages more than $24 billion in investment capital.
In addition to the 200 Griffin Scholars his gift will support, the Griffin Leadership Challenge for Financial Aid will also contribute 25 percent of the cost of up to 600 additional undergraduate scholarships. The goal of the Leadership Challenge is to encourage others to support financial aid and stabilize the long-term fiscal requirements of Harvard’s leading financial aid program.
Sally Donahue, the Griffin Director of Financial Aid, explained, “It is remarkable that our Admissions Committee is able to consider candidates based exclusively on their merits and achievement, without regard for their ability to pay college costs. In this way we are able to admit the best and brightest students from across the globe, and make it possible for them to come to Harvard with their financial need fully met. This is only possible because of the generosity of our donors and the commitment on the part of Dean [Michael D.] Smith and President Faust.”
Griffin is a longtime supporter of financial aid at Harvard College. In fact, he made his first donation to the School the year after he graduated, and he has consistently supported efforts at the University ever since. In 1999, he established the Wayne R. Gratz Scholarship at the College in honor of his grandfather.
“Attracting the best and brightest students is the foundation of Harvard’s excellence. That foundation is stronger, and will be for generations to come, thanks to Ken’s tremendous generosity,” said Michael D. Smith, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “I want to thank Ken for his inspirational leadership and for helping make a Harvard education available for any young person with the talent to take advantage of it.”
Griffin added that the vision he shares with Faust, Smith, and College Admissions Dean William Fitzsimmons “is to make sure Harvard remains the world’s greatest meritocracy of the mind, open and accessible to the world’s most talented young people — young people who will change this world.”