A retiring Stanford professor asks Nike co-founder Phil Knight for some pocket change

Stanford president John Hennessy decided to reach out to an alumni of the school. Hennessey asked shoe mogul Knight if he'd pony up some pocket change to change the world.

Knight said he'd fork over $400 million for a graduate-level scholarship program. But only the 'world's brightest minds' who are bent on tackling global challenges need apply.

Who else goes to Stanford, I wonder.

How Do You Know Who Went to Stanford?

By the way, do you know how to tell if someone has gone to Stanford?

Talk to them for a minute. Very soon on you will hear them say, "When I was at Stanford ..." or some such variation.

Knight's gift is the largest ever. More friends of Stanford are expected to pitch in to make the endowment worth a whopping $750 million. Not able to give that much money away fast enough, the endowment fund is likely to keep swelling at a faster clip than the school can give away at 100 smart alecks, er, geniuses a year.

Knight out gives Gates by 2x

Knight's $400 million is double what Bill Gates gave to the school.

But how much is $400 million to the Nike co-founder or $200 million to the Microsoft guy?

Knight is worth around $26 billion. What does it mean for him to give away $400 million? It would be like having $26 dollars in your pocket and giving away 40 cents.

For Bill Gates to give away $200 million of his $80 billion dollar worth it's like having $80 in his piggy bank and shaking out 20 pennies to give away.

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The Real Gift

Indeed the real gift these men are giving is not the money...though it is significant. They are gifting the future. One hundred people per year x 20, 30 or 40 years = 2,000-4000 Stanford grads telling the world, "When I was at Stanford..." No, not that. Stanford grads do remarkable things over time. Search out a list of distinguishable alumni and it will read like a who's who of the top minds in every industry everywhere.

This is not Knight's first plunk in the coffer. He's already given $100 million to the school's MBA program.

What I wonder is why doesn't Stanford the school give away free scholarships? Or maybe they do. How much can it cost for each professor to grade one more paper per semester or take one more student under his/her wing?

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