No April Fools: A Tycoon to the Rescue of Post-Grad Studies in China - Higher Education
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No April Fools: A Tycoon to the Rescue of Post-Grad Studies in China

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Earlier this month, I wrote a post about one Lincoln Gong, a high-tech billionaire who was rejected from Harvard as a high school senior. Naturally, Gong succeeded in spite of that and, as the story goes, felt compelled decades later to make a grand statement. He got some of his high-tech billionaire buddies who were also rejected from top schools to pitch in and fund a new private university that wouldn’t feel bad if it were 80-90 percent Asian-American.

It was both an act of vengeance and benevolence.

It was also an April Fools story.

So it’s a good thing Stephen A. Schwarzman is for real.

You might say he’s committing a Gongian act.

Schwarzman is not just a billionaire, singular, but a billionaire, plural, as in billions, thus qualifying him for genuine tycoon status.

Just as the fictional Gong was rejected by Harvard, Schwarzman was a Yale senior in 1969 and rejected for a prestigious Rhodes scholarship to Cambridge University in England.

(Some Rhodes Scholars you may have heard of:  Bill Clinton, Susan Rice, Cory Booker, Dr. Leanna Wen, John Edgar Wideman, Randall Kennedy and George Stephanopoulos.)

In his own act of vengeance and benevolence, Schwarzman announced, on Sunday, a new kind of post-graduate scholarship plan that would acknowledge the new Asian century instead of paying homage to the European past.

The private-equity tycoon is creating a $300 million scholarship for study in China with the main goal being to promote understanding between China and the rest of the world.

Schwartzman told CBS News: “I think that bringing students to China is an essential part of their education. China is no longer an elective course; it’s really core curriculum.”

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Yes, Western businesses are all salivating over China as a market teeming with consumers. Schwarzman as private-equity tycoon understands all that. But don’t underestimate his personal motives.

He told The New York Times that, as a college senior, he didn’t really want to go on to Harvard Business School and Wall Street. Straight out of college, he wanted one of those prestige scholarships like the Rhodes.

“I didn’t get any of those, and wanted one,” he told the Times.

Now out of rejection, he’s birthed the new program. Said Schwarzman, “Maybe even I might have been selected if I were back at Yale in 1969.”

Maybe — if he were paying for it.

For those of you who wanted to believe that there was someone like a Lincoln Gong (a number of people wanted his contact information), I’m sorry you took the prank seriously. And I hope in retrospect you can see the jest of my post.

But there is a real-life Gong named Schwarzman, and he’s all business.

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