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Billionaire alumnus gives $50 million to Claremont McKenna College

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Claremont McKenna College announced Wednesday that alumnus and billionaire financier George Roberts has given $50 million to the liberal arts college.

The donation puts the school’s capital campaign above $600 million, officials said.

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Roberts, a 1966 graduate who is also a campus trustee, put no restrictions on the donation’s use. But in his honor, the college is naming its new fitness and athletic facility the Roberts Pavilion. Construction is scheduled to start in 2014 on that building, which will more than double the size of the current gym.

Roberts and his cousin Henry Kravis, who is also a generous alumnus of Claremont McKenna, were among the original co-founders of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), a financial firm that was noted for its leveraged buyouts of companies.

In a statement, Roberts said he was honored that the new athletic facility would be named after him.

“Our student-athletes have the right attitude for both work and play,’ he said. ‘They deserve a fitness and athletic facility that mirrors the quality of their educational and residential experiences.”

The gift comes as the 1,300-student college in Claremont is in the final stages of looking for a successor to Pamela B. Gann, who has been president since 1999 and is leaving the post at the end of this school year. In 2007, Claremont McKenna received what was described as the single largest donation to an American liberal arts college, a $200-million gift to establish a new master’s degree in finance and to fund scholarships for undergraduates who show leadership potential.

That donation was from Robert Day, a college alumnus and trustee who is founder and chairman of the Trust Co. of the West, an investment management firm.

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