Silver Lake's Hutchins Give $15M To Harvard African-American Studies

Sep 19 2013 | 12:31am ET

Silver Lake Partners chief Glenn Hutchins is helping his friend Henry Louis Gates Jr. ensure that Harvard University remains the preeminent African-American studies center in the world.

Hutchins this week announced a $15 million gift that will unite Harvard's decentralized African and African-American studies centers, the culmination of a decade-long friendship with arguably the field's most well-known and distinguished scholar. At Gates' insistence, the unified entity will be called the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research.

"It creates an infrastructure for the department and a solid foundation on which they can thrive," Hutchins, who is white, told The New York Times.

Hutchins and Gates met 10 years ago at a symposium featuring the latter on Martha's Vineyard. Hutchins, a Harvard alum, sought Gates out at the event, and then made his first donation—$1 million—to his alma mater.

The gift to Gates' department is part of a previously-announced $30 million donation to the university. It is believed to be the largest-ever to the field of African-American studies.

"We both love ideas," Gates said. "We both love to build things," including the new home of the department on Harvard Square, with a façade designed by Ghanian-British architect David Adjaye.

"As long as there's a Harvard, the study of people of African descent will have a place. This is a perpetual part of Harvard. We have created something that has permanence."

The new Hutchins Center will debut next month with a ceremony honoring four people—director Steven Spielberg, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Rep. John Lewis and National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern—for their contributions to the field of African and African-American studies.

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