The University of Oxford has announced a £150 million ($188 million) gift from Blackstone co-founder, chair, and CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman to establish a hub dedicated to the study of the humanities.
The single largest donation to the university since the Renaissance will establish the Stephen A. Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, with a focus on the disciplines of English; history; linguistics, philology, and phonetics; medieval and modern languages; music; philosophy; and theology and religion. In addition to a new library, the center will offer opportunities for cross-disciplinary research and study as well as digital collection and research capabilities and modern amenities, including a five-hundred-seat concert hall, a two-hundred-and-fifty-seat auditorium, and flexible performance and exhibition spaces. The center also will host Oxford's planned Institute for Ethics in AI, which will be housed within the Faculty of Philosophy and dedicated to the study of the ethical implications of new computing technologies, including artificial intelligence. The gift, which nearly matches the amount Oxford raised during the 2017-18 academic year, will enable the university to grow academic posts and scholarships, with the goal of attracting a broader range of students to the humanities.
"This is one of the most exciting ideas for a long time. Oxford, which abounds in talent of all kinds, deserves a proper center for the study and celebration of the humanities," said author Sir Philip Pullman. "This is a time when technology is making new media, new forms of communication, new ways of thinking available to a much wider range of students and citizens than ever before, but also when the roots of humane study need nourishing and strengthening — and indeed protecting — in a world that sometimes seems to have lost touch with the best elements of its past. I welcome this new enterprise warmly, and I’m sure it will flourish and soon be widely seen, and celebrated, as an essential part of what Oxford means."
"I'm proud to partner with Oxford to establish the Schwarzman Centre for the Humanities, which will unite Oxford's Humanities faculties for the first time, include a new Institute for Ethics in AI to explore crucial questions affecting the workplace and society, and in addition offer modern performing arts facilities that will deepen Oxford's engagement with the public," said Schwarzman. "For nearly a thousand years, the study of the humanities at Oxford has been core to Western civilization and scholarship. We need to ensure that its insights and principles can be adapted to today's dynamic world. Oxford's longstanding global leadership in the humanities uniquely positions it to achieve this important objective."