Kenneth C. Griffin (photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Harvard University will name its Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) after conservative megadonor Kenneth C. Griffin. The billionaire Citadel hedge fund manager made a $300 million donation to the school’s larger Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which houses dozens of academic departments and offers degrees in subjects including film and visual art, art history, and architecture. The gift was announced today, April 11, in the Harvard Gazette.

Griffin has donated over $500 million to the university since he graduated in 1989. He has also given millions to conservative politicians. Griffin spent $100 million in the 2022 midterms, half of which went to federal Republican candidates. He’s also stated that the US would be “well-served” if Florida Governor Ron DeSantis became president and gave $5 million to DeSantis’s political action committee (PAC) in 2021, a year he emerged as the biggest funder of Republican super PACs. In 2019, Hyperallergic reported on his company Citadel’s majority stake in CoreCivic, which owns and manages private prisons and detention centers.

Harvard University’s announcement spurred harsh backlash online. “America’s leading university naming itself after a guy that funds a governor behind book bans and anti LGBTQ laws. You must be proud,” tweeted Clara Jeffery.

“What kind of a person do you have to be to insist or even allow Harvard to rename its graduate school of arts and sciences after you? Perhaps the kind of person who amasses a fortune of tens of billions of dollars by extracting wealth from working class people,” added Alec Karakatsanis, founder and executive director of the Civil Rights Corps.

Griffin also has a long history of philanthropy in the art world. Among other gifts, he’s donated $40 million to the Museum of Modern Art (he used to sit on the board), $19 million to the Art Institute of Chicago, and $25 million to the Shed at Hudson Yards. He currently sits on the board of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Griffin reportedly purchased a $300 million Willem de Kooning painting, a $60 million Paul Cézanne painting, and a Jasper Johns that sold for a reported $80 million, in addition to works by several other post-War and Impressionist artists.

In a dark allusion to the power yielded by American billionaires, in 2021, Griffin spent $43.2 million to buy an original first print copy of the US Constitution.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.