By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff
A prominent financier has given $30 million to Harvard University, his alma mater, to support academic initiatives and modernize the residential house system for undergraduates, the school announced Wednesday.
Glenn Hutchins, the co-founder of Silver Lake, among the world's largest technology investment firms, made the contribution through his family foundation. The gift will launch a fund designed to spur other contributions through a matching system.
Modeled after the English colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard's 12 undergraduate houses are a cornerstone of campus life, akin to a college within a college. But most of the buildings are at least 80 years old and in need of renovation.
In a statement, the university said the gift reflects Hutchins' belief in the importance of the houses to the undergraduate experience.
"When Harvard alumni are introduced for the first time, the first question they ask is not 'Which year' but, rather, 'Which House,' " Hutchins said. "The renovation of these magnificent buildings will enable Harvard to do for future generations what it did for us."
Hutchins graduated from Harvard College in 1977, and later graduated from the law and business school. He was a special adviser on economic and health-care policy in the Clinton administration, and is a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is an owner and member of the executive committee of the Boston Celtics.
In July, the college unveiled plans to renovate and modernize the houses. Harvard expects to launch a capital campaign next year.
The gift is the latest generous donation to Harvard.
Last March, Boston businessman Joseph O'Donnell and his wife Kathy gave $30 million.
Other large gifts included $100 million from David M. Rockefeller and $125 million from Swiss entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss in 2008.
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