UChicago announces $125 million gift to support economic scholarship

University's second-largest gift will bring Ken Griffin’s giving to nearly $150 million

The Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund intends to make the second-largest gift in the history of the University of Chicago, supporting the Department of Economics in expanding its leadership in education and research with wide-ranging public impact, while increasing financial support for students.

The $125 million gift, which will bring Griffin’s total giving in support of UChicago Economics to nearly $150 million, will help advance the department’s efforts to impact the world through economic inquiry and analysis.

The University of Chicago’s distinguished history includes 29 scholars associated with the University who have received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. The gift will support the development of future leaders in the field of economics by expanding resources for faculty, providing critical financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students, and creating a research incubator. In recognition of this gift, the Economics Department will be renamed the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics.

“The University of Chicago has a long history of groundbreaking and deeply impactful scholarship and education in the field of economics that continues today. This generous gift will enhance the scope and global impact of faculty research and support new access to the challenging intellectual environment that defines a University of Chicago education,” President Robert J. Zimmer said.

“The University of Chicago has transformed our understanding of economics. Over the past century, the faculty and students have challenged the status quo to produce pioneering research and path-breaking ideas, which have been recognized by the 29 Nobel prizes in the field of economics awarded to individuals associated with the University,” Griffin said. “I am proud to support the extraordinary work of the Economics Department and a university so fundamentally committed to free expression, fierce debate and intellectual pursuit. The culture of rigorous questioning and open discourse at the University of Chicago has opened minds to ideas that have changed the world.” 

Griffin is the founder and chief executive officer of Citadel, one of the world’s largest alternative asset managers. He is a committed philanthropist with a deep history of supporting world-class institutions in the areas of education, arts and culture, and economics. Griffin joined the University’s Board of Trustees in 2014.

The new gift will support scholarships for third- and fourth-year students in economics through the University’s Odyssey Scholarship Program and provide stipends to graduate students and support for graduate research. It also will support new and ongoing research by faculty and grow the size and enhance the preeminence of the department. This includes the launch of the Kenneth C. Griffin Applied Economics Research Incubator, which will focus on new strategies to strengthen the understanding and impact of economics.

“It is difficult to find an area of life or a problem faced by humanity that isn’t rooted in economics, from educating children to preventing war to fueling life-changing innovation. The gift is a commitment to the science of economics and research that confronts the most pressing issues facing society,” said John List, chair of the Department of Economics and the Kenneth C. Griffin Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College.

The future of economics at the University

The gift comes at an exciting time for the field of economics as advances in computing power, the scope and depth of data, and measurement techniques are taking scholars in unexplored directions. The resources provided by the gift will support faculty and students alike as they develop and deploy these emerging tools.

“The gift focuses on the future of economics at the University, building on a tradition of challenging conventional thinking and pioneering new ideas. It increases the momentum of giving to the University led by a strong commitment from trustees,” said Joseph Neubauer, MBA’65, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees.

While focused on the Economics Department, the gift will provide opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration across the University, particularly through the Economics Research Incubator.

“This extremely generous commitment will immeasurably benefit the Economics Department, as well as work in social sciences across campus. Given our culture of ‘low walls’ between disciplines, and the vitality and importance of economic approaches across fields, this gift will have broad influence across the University," said Amanda Woodward, interim dean of the Division of the Social Sciences and the William S. Gray Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology.

The gift is the second largest in the University’s history. The largest is a $300 million gift made in 2008 by David G. Booth, MBA’71, for whom the University’s Booth School of Business is named.