In the largest gift in the history of the 196 year old University of Michigan, Charles Munger, Vice Chair of Berkshire Hathoway since 1978, has pledged $110 million dollars to his former school.
Munger studied mathematics at the University of Michigan in the 1940’s before attending Harvard Law School. Following law school he eventually founded the Los Angeles law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Olsen and a number of other partners and associates also attended the University of Michigan. Mr. Munger stopped practicing law in the 1960’s when he started the investment firm that ultimately led him to Berkshire Hathoway.
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Charles Munger is no stranger to philanthropy and has made it a personal mission of his to endow schools that matter to him, including a number in the Los Angeles area where he makes his home, as well as Stanford, the University of Michigan and others.
Today’s gift, however, represents a huge step up in his desire to not try and take his money with him.
While the gift includes $10 million for fellowships to help create a residential society that encourages scholarship and interaction from many fields of study, the lions share will go towards a $185 million dollar housing project that has been his dream for a decade. The new state-of-the-art residence at the University of Michigan will be designed to foster a community where graduate students from multiple disciplines can live and exchange ideas.
The proposed building will house 600 graduate students in a unique educational and residential approach to post-graduate life. Most apartments will feature seven individual bedrooms and study areas, along with a large shared kitchen, large windows, and common areas designed to encourage cross-discipline exchange between tenants. Other apartments will be made up of 3 and 6 bedroom floor plans.
“This is an innovative and communal approach to graduate school education,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman. “Most universities do not take a community-like approach, and this project envisions an approach that makes graduate study less isolated. We see this as a revolutionary concept and an exciting opportunity for us to nurture graduate education within our ecosystem.”
“Charlie Munger is passionate about improving graduate student housing, and believes that educating one’s self, in the right setting, is very powerful. We anticipate this new building will have many options for students for meetings, gathering spaces, project spaces and living accommodations that combine the best private and common space.”
In a great show of humility, Munger says that he is “cheerfully co-operating in a limited amount of celebration of his gift,” partly out of duty and partly because he enjoys the attention. “But I particularly want to avoid any perception that I claim large donative merit. After all, I waited until my 90th year before making the gift, then gained friendship and creative joy in working with the university in a very interesting design effort likely to have a good outcome, while I parted with assets I soon won’t need.”
Additional information about the facility is available from the University of Michigan here.