The Lawrenceville School has received the largest single gift in its 207-year history. Joseph Tsai, a 1982 graduate of the private school in Lawrence Township, and his wife, Clara Tsai, have made a major gift through the Joe and Clara Tsai Foundation to support the school’s strategic plan.
“We are incredibly grateful to Joe and Clara for this historic and transformational gift. This offers us an opportunity to accelerate implementation of key elements of our strategic plan and to bring us that much closer to achieving some critically important, far-reaching initiatives,” said Lawrenceville Head Master Stephen Murray. “Joe embodies life-long character and commitment. He speaks movingly about his time as a student at Lawrenceville and understands the pivotal role that a school can play in a young person’s development. With this gift, Joe and Clara help ensure that we will continue the work of inspiring young people to lead lives of integrity and high purpose.”
The amount of the gift has not been disclosed, but the school’s previous largest gift, a bequest from former English teacher Henry C. Woods, Jr. and his wife, Janie Woods, in 2010 was $60.2 million.
In addition to supporting the long-term financial sustainability of the school through endowment, the gift from the Tsai family will support one of the school’s four strategic priorities. A portion of the gift will fund an athletic center and a new dining facility as a way to further promote and strengthen community.
The school hopes to break ground on the project within two years. The site for the new complex has not yet been determined, but Murray said having it centrally located on campus is a priority. “Far more than simply meeting a pressing facilities need, this gift allows us to give every member of the community multiple reasons to convene – to forge friendships when breaking bread together, to elevate school spirit and pride when supporting our teams, and to reinforce the social fabric of the school through teamwork, healthy competition, and a sense of togetherness in all that we do,” he said.
Tsai was born in Taipei, Taiwan and arrived at Lawrenceville in 1977. He was a member of the varsity lacrosse and football teams, sports editor of the student newspaper The Lawrence, and part of the glee club. He went on to graduate from Yale University and Yale Law School and practiced with Sullivan & Cromwell in New York as an associate in the firm’s Tax Group. In 1995, he moved to Hong Kong to begin a career in private equity investment with the Asian office of Investor AB, the Swedish industrial holding company under the stewardship of the Wallenberg family. In 1999, he met Jack Ma and soon after joined him as one of the founding members of the China-based e-commerce company Alibaba. Today he is executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group and serves on its board of directors. He is also a member of Lawrenceville’s Board of Trustees.
“I am grateful for what Lawrenceville has given me 35 years ago. Now, Clara and I are thrilled to give back,” Tsai said. “We express through this gift our appreciation for what a Lawrenceville experience can do for young people, and we wholeheartedly support Steve in his strategic vision of reinforcing campus life around a strong community.”