But Bloomberg’s philanthropy to Hopkins is by any reckoning remarkable. A list of major higher-education gifts compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012 was topped by a $1 billion commitment for scholarships from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bloomberg’s first gift to Hopkins was $5 in 1965, a year after he graduated from the private Baltimore university with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. His first $1 million pledge to Hopkins came in 1984, endowing a professorship in the humanities.
Now the 70-year-old billionaire, who made a fortune in the financial information business, has pledged $250 million to promote research in water resource sustainability, individualized health care delivery, global health, the science of learning and urban revitalization. In addition, he has pledged $100 million for scholarships to aid undergraduate students in financial need. The combined commitment of $350 million — the largest gift ever to the university — will bring his lifetime donations to Hopkins to $1.118 billion.
“Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it,” Bloomberg said in a statement issued through the university. “Giving is only meaningful if the money will make a difference in people’s lives, and I know of no other institution that can make a bigger difference in lives around the world through its groundbreaking research — especially in the field of public health.”
Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels called Bloomberg a “force for social good” who ranks among philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and the university’s namesake, the 19th-century Baltimore merchant Johns Hopkins.
“It is simply an extraordinary level of philanthropy,” Daniels said in a telephone interview Saturday. “It goes right to the core of the academic enterprise. It’s a magnificent gift. What can I say?”
The mayor’s gift will endow 50 faculty positions to be called “Bloomberg distinguished professors,” all of them based in more than one school within the university. That builds on a trend in higher education to facilitate research that crosses disciplines that have long been isolated within academia. Neuroscience, for example, might have much to contribute to education research. But until recently, universities have built few bridges to encourage teamwork in those fields. Georgetown University in November announced a $20 million gift to spur interdisciplinary research in environmental studies, using the same logic behind the Hopkins initiative.