Was the an anonymous donor who recently gave $100 million to the University of Chicago Goldman Sachs President and Co-Chief Operating Officer Jon Winkelried? We’re filing this under the category of “wild speculation” but with a blue sticker that indicates its at least plausible.
Why Winkelried? The donor is described as a graduate of the University of Chicago who feels “his life had been transformed by the nature of the education that he had.” Winkelried got both his undergraduate and business degrees from Chicago, and now serves as a trustee of the University. An alumni publication once wrote about a $5 million gift from Winkelried. In the article he talks about the time he got a C in an introductory physics class. The mediocre grade sent him packing to the library where he re-dedicated himself to his studies.
“That day changed my entire life. I figured out that doing well at the University of Chicago wasn’t just a matter of listening in class and then regurgitating what I had heard. A Chicago education was about absorbing information and looking at the world in a different way,” Winkelried said.
[More anonymous charity hermeneutical speculation after the jump]
The donor is also described as being an enthusiast for opening up the opportunity to have a University of Chicago education for lower income applicants. The gift is earmarked for full-scholarships for 800 lower-income students each year, partial tuition for 400 students and summer enrichment programs for 50 lower-income students prior to their freshman year.
"He wanted to make the gift to ensure that students had the opportunity independent of their financial capacity," University President Robert Zimmer told the Associated Press.
That echoes what Winkelried has said in the past. “I support scholarships because I would not have been able to attend Chicago without one,” Winkelried told the alumni magazine.
There aren’t that many people who can donate $100 million to anyone, and even fewer who want to do so anonymously. After all, many college buildings are named for alumni who gave far less than $100 million. But Winkelried might very well fit—he’s got the financial ability and rumored to have the personal humility.
Last year Winkelried’s cash and stock option compensation from Goldman Sachs was worth more than $53 million. He reportedly owns over $254 million of Goldman stock, and is the largest stock holder among the top officers of the firm. He’s considered to be a likely successor to Goldman chief Lloyd Blankfein.
Winkelried has been involved in a variety of different charitable causes. He is often described in terms that suggest he is not exactly flashy. A famous 2004 Fortune Magazine article on Goldman Sachs described him as sporting a shirt with a torn sleeve and missing buttons. A former colleague told dealbreaker that he believed it was “entirely plausible” that he could make a $100 million anonymous donation to his alma mater. (Thus the blue sticker.)
But this is all just guess work and possibilities. Winkelried was traveling today and could not be reached for comment. Goldman Sachs declined to comment. We’re open to other suggestions. Who else might have the means to give away this kind of money combined with the humility to do it anonymously? Leave your suggestions in comments.
Donor gives $100 million for low-income student scholarships [Associated Press via CNN.com]