Harvard’s Engineering School Just Received a $400 Million Gift

Hedge fund manager John A. Paulson set a record for giving to the university.

Photo by Olga Khvan

Photo by Olga Khvan

There’s a new leader in the race to see who can give the most incomprehensibly enormous sum of money to Harvard University.

Harvard announced Wednesday that John A. Paulson, a hedge fund manager and Harvard Business School alum, gave $400 million to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, which will be named for him. It is the largest gift Harvard has ever received. The donation comes on the heels of Ken Griffin’s $150 million gift toward financial aid and the $350 million given to the School of Public Health by the family of Gerald Chan.

The money will assist the engineering school as it expands across the river to a new science campus in Allston. Paulson’s gift “comes at a time of great opportunity for SEAS,” the school said in its announcement. Not only is it expanding into Boston, it recently added three undergraduate concentrations – biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering — and a master’s program. Course enrollment has jumped 150 percent in recent years.

Paulson donated the money as part of Harvard’s capital campaign, which seeks to raise $6.5 billion for the university. After graduating from HBS in 1980, Paulson founded his fund in 1994 with $2 million. He’s done pretty well for himself since then, thanks in part to a bets that the housing market would collapse in 2007. His firm now manages over $19 billion.

The Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (say that three times fast) joins the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health as the second Harvard school to be named for a donor during this capital campaign. It was once thought that the amount of money needed to get a donor’s name on a Harvard school was basically nonexistent, but the two most recent big-time donations prove that Harvard naming rights aren’t priceless; they’re just very, very, very expensive.