Bequest will help fund new residential colleges

NEW HAVEN — Billionaire investor Charles B. Johnson, a 1954 graduate of Yale College, will give $250 million to his alma mater to support the creation of two new residential colleges. Johnson’s gift represents the largest in Yale’s 312-year history.

Johnson, who retired last year as chairman of the board of Franklin Resources, has previously contributed to the Papers of Benjamin Franklin and the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy, and he made a gift to establish the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy, which holds the papers of Henry Kissinger. He has also supported renovations of the Yale Bowl and the creation of Yale’s first all-season outdoor athletics field.

Yale's residential college system, which dates back more than 70 years, is the most distinctive feature of Yale College. The 12 existing residential colleges are architecturally distinct, but each offers students a familiar, comfortable living environment, personal interaction with faculty members and administrators, and opportunities for academic and extracurricular exploration. Students remain affiliated with their residential college for their undergraduate years and beyond.

Yale last built new residential colleges — Morse and Ezra Stiles — in 1961. The construction of two additional residential colleges will permit Yale to accept a larger percentage of undergraduate applicants. Currently, Yale admits only a tiny fraction of applicants; the 1,360 members of the Class of 2017 were chosen from a record applicant pool of 29,610 (about 4.6 percent). The two new colleges will allow Yale to admit about 15 percent more students each year, bringing total undergraduate enrollment to more than 6,000.

Designed by Robert A. M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, the new colleges will incorporate spaces and traditions that are historically associated with existing colleges. Their construction will be funded entirely through donor support, with construction commencing when all funding is secured.

“This is an extraordinary commitment from one of Yale’s most loyal alumni,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “It builds on Charlie’s long history of generosity to Yale. Charlie has already done so much to shape our international and athletics programs. This latest gift, in support of the expansion of Yale College, is truly magnificent, and I am deeply grateful. I am thrilled that this gift brings us to within $80 million of the funds needed to break ground on two new residential colleges.”

“Yale is unsurpassed in the quality of its undergraduate education, and I strongly support Rick Levin's and Peter Salovey’s shared goal to make that extraordinary experience available to more students than ever before,” Johnson said. “I hope my commitment will inspire other alumni, parents and friends to complete the funding for the construction of these colleges.”

Johnson was CEO and chairman of Franklin Resources, the parent company of Franklin Templeton Investments, and has been at the company since 1957. Johnson is also part owner of the San Francisco Giants major league baseball team. He has served on the board of overseers of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.