Second largest single gift in Yale’s history
University-wide center to serve as campus educational, social, and cultural hub while enabling virtual engagement with global audiences
Yale University today announced a $150 million path-breaking gift by Blackstone founder and Yale alumnus Stephen A. Schwarzman ’69 B.A. to create a world-class, state-of-the-art campus center by renovating the historic Commons and Memorial Hall. The Schwarzman Center will be transformational for Yale in providing, for the first time, a center dedicated to cultural programming and student life at the center of the university. It will be designed to draw together students and faculty from all of Yale’s schools and colleges and, with the help of state-of-the-art technology, enable virtual engagement with the outside world in a dynamic way never done before at Yale. The project will be a cornerstone of Yale President Peter Salovey’s vision to build a more unified, accessible, and innovative university. The myriad educational, social, and cultural programs envisioned for the Schwarzman Center will further reinforce Yale’s role as a leading research university that proudly and unapologetically focuses on its students.
“So much of the educational experience at Yale takes place outside the classroom,” said Peter Salovey, President of Yale University. “But until now, Yale has lacked a central gathering space that can serve as a locus — and a catalyst — for students from every part of Yale to interact with one another. We thank Steve Schwarzman for his vision and support in helping us advance our vision of a more unified, accessible, and innovative university.”
The Schwarzman Center will transform the historic Commons and three floors of the adjacent Memorial Hall, both built at the university’s bicentennial in 1901. It will be far more than a restoration. The 88,300-square-foot complex at the center of the campus will be reimagined to become the central hub of student life by creating versatile performance, exhibition, meeting, dining, and gathering spaces. The Schwarzman Center will also present performances and cultural events in the historic Woolsey Hall, which is another of the Carrere and Hastings-designed buildings built to mark Yale’s bicentennial.
“My hope is that the Schwarzman Center will serve as the crossroads for the campus, but also place Yale at the crossroads of the world,” said Stephen A. Schwarzman, Blackstone co-founder, Chairman, and CEO. “The education I received at Yale changed the course of my life. It is now a pleasure to give back by creating something on campus that will be transformational for all members of the Yale community. Future generations will utilize the Schwarzman Center in innumerable new ways and, in so doing, keep the Yale experience at the cutting edge.”
Michael Kaiser, longtime president of The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where Schwarzman served as Chairman of the Board, has been retained to advise Yale on the renovation, programming, and staffing for the center. New staff will be hired to design and implement a robust calendar of events and activities that will make the Schwarzman Center a thriving hub of activity on a daily basis. Yale will benefit from Kaiser’s expertise to cultivate at the Schwarzman Center the qualities that have made The Kennedy Center one of the world’s most successful cultural institutions, said Salovey.
“The Schwarzman Center will build on the strengths of our already-vibrant residential colleges and the communities within each of our schools and departments to inspire engagement in ways we can only begin to imagine,” added Salovey. “We have amazing students, but they largely associate within their own school or the college. Going forward a signature of a Yale education will include learning from and forming friendships with other students throughout the university at the Schwarzman Center.”
The renovation will encompass the entire Commons building and large parts of Memorial Hall, including the under-utilized lower level of Commons, which was previously not accessible to students and mainly used for food preparation, storage, and equipment. The newly conceived Schwarzman Center is envisioned to house many distinct spaces including the grand main hall, light-filled lounge areas, gallery spaces, performance spaces, and student meeting rooms. The Schwarzman Center will have the capacity to accommodate thousands of individuals simultaneously and will be utilized by hundreds of Yale student organizations — undergraduate, graduate, and professional — that will have access to the center’s multi-purpose spaces. The Schwarzman Center will also provide new and exciting dining experiences for the entire campus with expanded international food offerings that will be available late into the night.
Final determination of the configuration and use of the center will be made in close consultation with a student, faculty, and staff planning committee that will be co-chaired by Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Yale College, and Lynn Cooley, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
The building will incorporate cutting-edge technology, which will allow those at Yale to interact virtually with peers around the globe. The Yale community will have new opportunities to view and participate in off-campus events and engage with a greater number of outside experts and dignitaries. Through digitally streaming performances and educational and cultural events at the Schwarzman Center, Yale will reach new audiences and extend its impact in the world, note university leaders.
When the Schwarzman Center opens in 2020, Yale College will have expanded by 15% with the addition of two new residential colleges. The total Yale student enrollment (undergraduate, graduate, and professional students) will exceed 12,000. The Schwarzman Center will complement the kinds of programs available in the undergraduate residential colleges, the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and each of the university’s professional schools. It will enable new collaborations and connections among all the university’s students by offering additional activity space, new and creative events, and opportunities for interdisciplinary and inter-school interaction.
The renovation will preserve and enhance the architectural beauty of the complex and Memorial Hall, where the names of Yale graduates who gave their lives in military conflicts from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam are inscribed.
The creation of the Schwarzman Center complements other large campus facilities projects that are advancing Yale’s mission. In addition to constructing the two new residential colleges, Yale is building a large new science facility; undertaking a major renovation of the Hall of Graduate Studies for use by faculty in many of its humanities departments and programs; and completing the renovation and expansion of Hendrie Hall (now the Adams Center) for music scholarship and performance by both undergraduates and graduate students.
The three student government organizations at Yale last fall issued a joint report to the University President calling for the creation of a “campus-wide center that bridges the boundaries between undergraduate, graduate and professional school students” and that “encourages vibrant, significant and inclusive social interaction at Yale.” The Schwarzman Center, note university leaders, is an inspiring answer to the student leaders’ request.
Yale University, founded in 1701 as the “Collegiate School,” comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and 12 professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, and museums. Approximately 11,250 students now attend Yale.
About Stephen A. Schwarzman
Stephen A. Schwarzman is Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone. He has been involved in all phases of the firm’s development since its founding in 1985. The firm is now one of the world’s largest alternative asset managers, with $310 billion assets under management. The firm invests on behalf of 29 million pensioners in the U.S. and millions more internationally, as well as academic institutions, charitable organizations, and governments around the world.
Mr. Schwarzman is an active philanthropist, with a history of supporting education and schools. Through his philanthropy, he attempts to find transformative solutions to major challenges.
In 2007, he donated $100 million to the New York Public Library, a gift that served as the anchor commitment in a $1 billion fundraising capital campaign to prepare the library to meet the challenges of the 21st century. In 2013, he committed $100 million and is personally leading a campaign to raise an additional $300 million to endow Schwarzman Scholars, a fully funded Master’s degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, one of China’s top academic institutions. Modeled on the Rhodes scholarship, the Schwarzman Scholarship is designed to prepare the next generation of leaders for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond. The program’s academic curriculum was crafted by some of the most talented academic leaders from prestigious universities globally including Yale, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and Cambridge. Mr. Schwarzman also created an endowment to sponsor 200 children a year in perpetuity to attend Catholic schools in New York City, and has also supported international student scholarships.
Mr. Schwarzman is former Chairman of the Board of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He is a member of The Council on Foreign Relations, Business Council, and Business Roundtable. He serves on the boards of the New York Public Library, Asia Society, The Frick Collection and New York City Partnership.
International board memberships include: the Shanghai International Financial Advisory Council, China Development Bank International Advisory Committee, and the Advisory Board for the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. In 2007, Mr. Schwarzman was awarded the Légion d’Honneur of France and, in 2010, he was promoted to Officier.
Mr. Schwarzman holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Yale School of Management and on the Visiting Committee of Harvard Business School. He currently serves as a member of Harvard’s Global Advisory Council and on the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University in Beijing.