What do you get when you combine Nike Co-Founder and Stanford alumni Phillip Knight with one of the world's most prestigious universities? A big name school with an additional $400 million donated graduate scholarships. As a gift to Stanford University on his 78th birthday, the endowment is intended to attract some of the world's brightest graduate and professional students looking to solve major global challenges.
The Knight-Hennessey Scholars Program is one of the largest scholarships to have ever been donated from an individual university. Stanford also claims that the program represented the "largest single increase in student financial aid in Stanford's history," and it will provide aid for a minimum of three years of graduate-level study, with 100 scholars admitted annually. The Stanford Daily reports that it "will be analogous to the Rhodes and Shwarzman scholarships." According to the press release, scholars will be nominated by their universities based on high academic achievement, leadership, and civic commitment. Nominees will be from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities.
John Hennessey, Stanford's President of 16 years who is stepping down this year to run the new scholars program, claims that the program "will be the largest graduate scholarship program focused on all disciplines at any university in the world." The graduate and professional schools in which it will enroll scholars are law, business, medicine, engineering, humanities and sciences, education, Earth, energy, and environmental sciences. There is also an option for extended funding for scholars pursuing PhD or MD degrees. Leadership training and development, residential experiences, immersive educational opportunities, and additional degree opportunities focused on public policy and problem-solving will be incorporated into the program. More than 80% of the endowment will cover students' living expenses and education.
While the generous endowment would help educate some of the world's prospective leaders, some criticize the "megagifts" given to prestigious universities, claiming that "they are more about prestige and ego than academic excellence," as reported by Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times. Could this really just be an "arms race between the top schools with no connection to reality," as stated by New York writer and author Malcolm Gladwell?
Knight has supported Stanford since 2006, when he contributed a large gift to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. The Knight-Hennessey Scholars Program is actually Knight's second largest donation to a college or university, the largest being a 2013 donation of $500 million to the University of Oregon in which he challenged the university to raise $500M by offering to match the amount. Stanford will start accepting applications beginning in the summer of 2017 and admit its first brigade of scholars for fall of 2018. Knight and Hennessey "dream of a future 20, 30, or 50 years from now, when thousands of graduates - who can think outside the box as skilled problem-solvers - will be working together for a more peaceful, habitable world."
Would you apply for the scholarship program? Keep an eye out for more information to come on the scholarship and in meantime, see what other scholarship opportunities you are eligible for.