The university’s president, Peter Salovey, said he hoped more schools would follow, particularly in the areas of nursing and public health, where students tend to graduate with high debt and pursue careers that are not highly lucrative.
“In general, what should be happening in higher education is an attempt to reduce the financial burden on individuals and families associated with undergraduate education and graduate and professional education,” Salovey said. “I’d love to do this for other programs as well, but it will take the generosity of donors to make it happen.”
Geffen, 78, made his fortune in the music and film businesses, and is currently worth about $10 billion, according to Forbes. He has become a major philanthropist with an interest in the arts, previously giving $150 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, $100 million to Lincoln Center for the renovation of the concert hall where the New York Philharmonic performs and $100 million to the Museum of Modern Art.
Geffen, through a Yale spokeswoman, declined to be interviewed, but Salovey said the Yale gift came about after years of conversations between the university and Geffen’s foundation. Geffen once taught a seminar at Yale, in the late 1970s, about the music industry, and Salovey said that experience had been positive for Geffen; Salovey also said the university had been aware of Geffen’s interest in supporting higher education and the arts, and had looked for projects that might appeal to those interests.
Geffen has maintained a variety of connections to theater throughout his career: In the 1980s, he was among the producers of the original Off Broadway production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and in the 1990s, he gave the founding gift for the Geffen Playhouse, a major theater in Los Angeles. Over the years he has been credited as a producer of nine Broadway shows, from “Dreamgirls” to the upcoming revival of “The Music Man.”
Salovey said he hopes in the future that Yale will be able to build a new theater that will also house the drama school; that project would have to be financed through a separate fund-raising effort, he said.