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Berkshire’s Munger Pledges Record $110 Million to U. Michigan

Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charles Munger
Charles Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., studied mathematics at the University of Michigan in the 1940s and has previously contributed $20 million for renovations at a housing complex. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

Charles Munger, vice chairman at Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., pledged $110 million of securities to the University of Michigan to fund fellowships and a graduate-student residence.

The gift is the largest single donation in the school’s 196-year history, the Ann Arbor-based university said yesterday in a statement on its website. The proposed building will have room for more than 600 occupants and contain apartments with as many as seven bedrooms and private bathrooms that share cooking, dining and living areas.

Munger, 89, studied mathematics at the university in the 1940s and has previously contributed $20 million for renovations at a housing complex. The latest pledge includes $10 million for fellowships. Recipients would live in the residence and be chosen from among the university’s 19 schools and colleges to spur interaction among students from multiple disciplines.

“This project envisions an approach that makes graduate study less isolated,” university President Mary Sue Coleman said in the statement. “Charlie Munger is passionate about improving graduate student housing, and believes that educating one’s self, in the right setting, is very powerful.”

Munger, who lives in Southern California, helped design plans for the new building after funding a graduate-student complex at Stanford University, according to the statement. The Michigan residence will include a floor featuring gathering spaces, a commissary, a fitness center and views of the campus and downtown Ann Arbor.

Building’s Cost

The university is planning to open the eight-story building in 2015. Munger’s donation will cover $100 million of the total $185 million cost, with the remainder coming from lease revenue.

“I particularly want to avoid any perception that I claim large donative merit,” Munger said in the statement. “After all, I waited until my 90th year before making the gift, then gained friendship and creative joy in working with the university in a very interesting design effort likely to have a good outcome, while I parted with assets I soon won’t need.”

Munger, a graduate of Harvard Law School, helped build Berkshire from a failing textile maker into a $254 billion company that insures against car crashes and earthquakes, operates trains and planes, generates electricity and sells products from diamonds to running shoes. He’s among the Omaha, Nebraska-based company’s largest investors with more than 6,224 Class A shares as of Dec. 31. That stake would be worth about $962 million at yesterday’s closing price.

Through an assistant, Munger declined to comment further on the gift or on which securities he pledged. He has lectured at the school and advised it on investments, according to the statement.

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