Three Things to Know About Jonathan Gray's Philanthropy

Jonathan Gray

Jonathan Gray

There's billionaire Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone Group, and then there's his head of global real estate, Jonathan Gray, who some say could be heir to the throne. For now, he's a star at the investment firm and a billionaire in his own right, in large part thanks to his 8 percent stake in the company, according to Forbes. Unlike his boss, Gray's philanthropy is still taking shape: Jonathan and wife Mindy recently made news with a $10 million donation to fund New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's initiative to create college savings accounts for some 3,500 NYC children.  

Gray, now in his 40s, and Mindy give through their Gray Foundation. Some large gifts in health and education in recent years, as well as several prominent board memberships have caught our eye. Here are three things to know about Jonathan Gray's philanthropy.

1. He Prioritizes Health for Personal Reasons

We can't talk about Gray's health philanthropy without talking about Gray's wife Mindy. The two met in an English class senior year at UPenn and got married a few years later. In 2012, Gray and Mindy established the Basser Research Center at UPenn's Perelman School of Medicine with a $25 million gift. The center is named in honor of Mindy's older sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at 44. Basser Research looks at a specific set of genes that are linked to a significantly higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Mindy appears to be the driving force of this part of the couple's philanthropy, and also serves on the executive committee of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. In 2013, Gray and Mindy gave an additional $5 million to Basser Research Center, expanding research into gene-related pancreatic cancer, as well as launching a grants program. 

The couple has given other sums to National Jewish Health, a medical center in Denver, and Children's Tumor Foundation.

2. Gray Strongly Supports Education

Prior to the big NYC college fund in late 2016, the year 2012 appears to have been busy for Gray's philanthropy. The same year that he gave $30 million to found Basser, he also donated $10 million to Harlem Village Academies to purchase a building on West 124th Street. Harlem Village Academies West Elementary School on 124th Street is now one of five schools in the Harlem Village Academy charter school network. The connection here is pretty straightforward. Gray serves as chairman of Harlem Village Academies. He's also a board member at Trinity School, which has received at least $3 million over the years. As well, Mindy sits on the leadership council of Peer Health Exchange, a charity dedicated to giving teens a comprehensive health education.

3. This Could Be Just The Beginning

Gray is still young, and the couple has already written several big checks. Gray gave $35 million in 2012 between Basser and Harlem Village Academies alone, and he continued supporting the Basser Center in 2013. All of this might spell more prolific giving down the line. If so, health—particularly cancer research—and education should be top priorities.

It's also worth noting that as a billionaire real estate investor with a lot of land, Gray has a thing for property: This might eventually play a greater role in his philanthropy. Indeed, in a Bloomberg piece, Gray described a deteriorating boys' school up for auction, the building that he helped turn into the new Harlem Village Academies elementary school: "It was basically like a distressed real estate deal." Oh, and Gray currently chairs the board of Hilton Worldwide, as well.

Complete IP Profile: Jonathan Gray