Warren Buffett Business Partner Charles Munger Donates $65 Million for KITP Facility, Largest Single Gift in UCSB History
Charles Munger has called physics “vitally important” with “collateral benefits” for all. The longtime business partner of Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway considers it so important that he has donated $65 million to fund a new visitor housing facility for the UCSB-based Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP). The donation to assist the world-renowned institute is the largest single gift in UC Santa Barbara’s history.
The Towbes Group Inc. will start construction of the KITP Residence this month, and the project is expected to take two years. The three-story, 61-bed facility will provide housing for visitors to the institute, which attracts scientists from around the globe who stay for weeks at a time.
In a UCSB Office of Public Affairs and Communications (OPAC) news release, Chancellor Henry T. Yang said: “The Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics has been hosting thousands of the world’s top scientists since 1979. It is being emulated by numerous universities and is the envy of the physics community all over the world. We are absolutely thrilled and honored that through Charlie’s vision, unbelievable generosity, his love of physics, and his unique architectural and engineering genius and passion, we have been gifted such an unimaginable guesthouse for the visitors of KITP to enjoy and to enable them to continue their groundbreaking research at the endless frontier of physics.”
Theoretical astrophysicist Lars Bildsten, director of KITP and Gluck Professor of Theoretical Physics at UCSB, says the new facility will likely increase important scientific work. “KITP’s mission is to bring together the world’s leading scientists to collaborate on the most challenging and exciting questions in theoretical physics and related fields,” he said in the OPAC release. “Our visitors now spend their day in Kohn Hall, the center of interactions, but once the Residence is complete they will continue those interactions into the nights and weekends. I’m confident we will see an increased number of collaborations and scientific progress.”
Munger, 90, has frequently made large donations to schools, including Stanford University, Harvard-Westlake School in the Los Angeles area, and his alma mater, the University of Michigan. One of his grandsons is an alumnus of UCSB.
“Physics has enormously helped me in life — the logic and power of it,” Munger said in the OPAC news release. “Once you see what a combination of calculus and Newton’s laws will do and the things you can work out, you get an awesome appreciation for the power of getting things in science right. It has collateral benefits for people. And I don’t think you get a feeling for the power of science – not with the same strength – anywhere else than you do in physics.”