What's Behind This Hedge Fund Star's Big Gift to Wharton?

Billionaire Larry Robbins has soared to the top of hedge fund food chain in recent years with the success of his New York-based company, Glenview Capital Management, which now manages $7.5 billion.  

Speaking of $7.5—we’re talking millions of dollars this time not billions—that’s the exact amount Robbins just invested in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1992.

Robbins’ gift is surprising because he doesn’t quite fit the age profile. At 44, Robbins is a good 20 years younger than many major givers to universities, although biz school donors tend to be younger than those who give to other areas of higher education.

So what's the story behind this gift, and what we can we learn from Robbins’ accelerated philanthropic timeline?

First, while Robbins might still be wet behind the ears when it comes to higher education giving, he’s long been involved in K-12 issues. He’s chairman of the board at KIPP New York and Relay Graduate School of Education, which trains teachers. He’s a member of the board on Teach for America (New York) and also the Robin Hood Foundation. While the Robin Hood Foundation’s main goal has always been to end poverty in New York, it's deep into education issues. 

Larry Robbins and his first wife Amy L. Robbins founded the Larry Robbins Foundation back in 2008 and they've made a number of substantial gifts. At least $10 million has gone to Robin Hood, $2.2 million to KIPP, and over $2 million to United Jewish Appeal. Robbins has also given to Teach for America. 

(Amy Robbins also runs a separate foundation, the Nduna Foundation, which gives to a range of global causes.) 

It's no surprise that Robbins would turn his largesse in the direction of the Wharton School. He’s been an active member of the Wharton Club of New York and the Wharton Hedge Fund Network and gave the keynote address at the latter entity back in 2011. It was only a matter of time before Robbins' philanthropy intersected with his old stomping grounds in Philly.

The $7.5 million itself will fund renovation and create a permanent endowed fund to support operations and maintenance for its Jerome Fischer Program in Management in Technology, the very same dual-degree interdisciplinary program Robbins himself graduated from.