We keep a close eye on Henry Kravis and his wife Marie-Josee for some very good reasons, quite apart from that $5.2 billion fortune that Kravis has amassed from his many years in private equity. The couple are ambitious philanthropists with wide interests, and when they give, they often give big.
Related - IP profile of Henry Kravis
A case point: a recent $100 million gift to Rockefeller University in New York to create the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Research Building. The two-story building will be built on the new Stavros Niarchos Foundation–David Rockefeller River Campus and will "provide lab space for scientific and educational programs."
While its unclear exactly what kind of work will go on at the new research building, Rockefeller University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne talks about the gift allowing the university to "stay at the cutting edge of scientific discovery... [and enabling the school] to continue to recruit top faculty by providing them with the facilities they need to make transformative discoveries.”
This gift serves as a good reminder of just how much money science and medical research can pull in. I recently wrote about a $50 million biomedical research gift to USC and a $92 million gift to Northwestern. Gifts in this area are often far-reaching and large, and the Kravis couple's $100 million gift to a science-focused institution like Rockefeller certainly falls within this category. As well, Kravis's philanthropy has been marked by several rather large gifts, including a $100 million gift to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to establish the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO).
It's worth noting that Kravis and Marie-Josee aren't alums of Rockefeller University. In fact, Kravis attended a small liberal arts college in Southern California called Claremont McKenna (CMC), before getting his M.B.A. from Columbia. CMC has been a huge beneficiary of Kravis' higher education philanthropy over the years, and has received at least $85 million. CMC is the site of the Kravis Leadership Institute, and the Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.
Kravis clearly has an interest in higher education, but one might ask why he didn't just keep his eyes trained on CMC. However, most of the couple's philanthropy takes place on the East Coast, especially in New York. Kravis and Marie-Josee are rather active in New York civic life, with a trail of board memberships in education, health, and the arts. The Kravis couple especially likes to take a leadership role in these spaces; Marie-Josee is the president of MoMA's board of trustees, and Kravis is vice chair at Rockefeller University, as well as co-chair of the Columbia Business School Board of Overseers.
Speaking of Columbia, yet another $100 million gift from the couple a few years ago went towards a new business school campus so perhaps the next outfit looking for a cool $100 million from the couple might want to get Kravis or Marie-Josee to chair it.
In all seriousness, though, the philanthropic pattern we've noticed here shows just how important board memberships can be, particularly with a big construction project underway such as the one at Rockefeller. Often, the more involved a donor or potential donor is, the more likely he or she is to give, especially at a pivotal moment. In addition, the couple has also given at least $10 million to Rockefeller University in the past, which once again illustrates what we often say at IP: If you're looking for a big gift, ask somebody who's already given a big gift.