Fund Raising

$150-Million Gift to Stanford Seeks to Alleviate Poverty in Developing World

November 04, 2011

A half-century after receiving an M.B.A. from Stanford University, a local philanthropist and his wife have donated $150-million to establish an institute aimed at alleviating global poverty, Stanford officials announced Friday.

The gift, from Robert and Dorothy King, is among the largest ever made to Stanford and its Graduate School of Business. It includes a $100-million grant to start the Stanford Institute on Innovation in Developing Economies, which will be known as SEED. It also includes $50-million in matching funds to encourage donations to Stanford programs that tackle poverty.

The multidisciplinary institute, which will be housed at the business school, will develop and disseminate innovations that improve the lives of people in developing countries.

Drawing on fields including business, engineering, and medicine, it will also support entrepreneurs as they expand their businesses to solve problems in areas such as transportation, health care, and mobile communications.

Mr. King received his M.B.A. from Stanford in 1960. He said the couple's gift had been inspired by the entrepreneurial activities of international students from Stanford who have stayed in their homes over the last four decades.

"We know there are people out there who can make this world a better place, and we want to get behind them," Mr. King, a venture investor and philanthropist in Menlo Park, Calif., said in a YouTube video about the institute.

New and existing courses at the business school will allow students to study economics, affordable design, and ways to work with governments to remove restrictions on start-up companies. Face-to-face and online curricula will also be developed for entrepreneurs working in developing countries.

Stanford officials said the institute would draw on the school's strong tradition of entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and elsewhere around the world.

"This time we'll be leveraging our strengths to target not the normal start-ups like Google and Cisco, but those that help millions of people move away from poverty," said the institute's director, Hau L. Lee, a supply-chain expert and professor of operations, information, and technology.