Nike co-founder and Chairman Philip Knight has pledged $400 million to Stanford University for a new scholarship program aimed at tackling major global challenges.

The gift, announced Wednesday, is one of the largest ever from an individual donor to a university. It also "represents the largest single increase in student financial aid in Stanford's history," according to a statement from the university.

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program "will be analogous to the Rhodes and Shwarzman scholarships," the Stanford Daily reports. It is supported by a $750 million endowment, Stanford says, the majority of which is from Knight's gift.

Stanford says the program, which provides funding for at least three years of graduate-level study, will admit 100 scholars annually.

"The Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program brings the very best students from around the world to study at Stanford in any discipline they're interested in, and helps prepare them to be world leaders," Stanford President John Hennessy says. "It will be the largest graduate scholarship program focused on all disciplines at any university in the world."

Hennessy is stepping down this year after 16 years as president. He will be the Knight-Hennessey program's first director.

The program aims to attract scholars from around the world who have shown "leadership and civic commitment," the statement says.

"This is using education to benefit mankind and I think it really could be transformative," Knight told The New York Times. "I jumped on it right away."

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