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Feb 24, 2016 11:41 AM EST

Phil Knight Donates $400 Million to Stanford for Global Leadership Program

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For his 78th birthday, Nike chairman and co-founder Phil Knight donated $400 million to Stanford University, but not so its student-athletes could wear the iconic "swoosh" logo.

Stanford announced the donation Tuesday, and that the gift would go toward establishing the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program for graduate students. The program will aim to "prepare a new generation of global leaders with the skills to address the increasingly complex challenges facing the world."

Knight, who turns 78 Wednesday, told The New York Times he saw an opportunity to invest in the future of the entire world.

"This is using education to benefit mankind and I think it really could be transformative," he said. "I jumped on it right away."

Stanford President John Hennessy will serve as the program's director when he steps down from his current position. The scholars who eventually take part will be a diverse group of graduates nominated by their respective schools based on civic duties and leadership qualities, Stanford stated.

Forbes estimates Knight's net worth at $25 billion, having co-founded one of the most recognizable, famous brands in the world. His $400 million donation matches one John A. Paulson gave to Harvard for its engineering school, The Times reported.

Knight is an Oregon native, and attended the state's flagship university, Stanford's Pac-12 rivals. However, Knight received his MBA from Stanford and has donated to both schools over the years.

"We wanted to create something enduring, that would be unlike anything else currently available to the world's brightest minds, and that would make the biggest impact possible toward solving global challenges affecting the environment, health, education and human rights," Hennessy said in the school's statement. "We will bring together outstanding, courageous scholars to benefit from Stanford's innovative educational environment, who then go on to lead governments, businesses, nonprofits and other complex organizations and develop creative solutions to effect positive change."

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