Following an illustrious career in investment banking, billionaire Lloyd Blankfein is considered by many to be the epitome of the American dream. Raised in the Brooklyn projects, Blankfein rose through the ranks, eventually joining financial powerhouse Goldman Sachs, where he worked for more than three decades. Only a year into his tenure as the company's Chief Executive Officer, Blankfein was faced with the task of guiding one of the world's largest banks through the economic crisis of 2007–08.

Although his twelve-year CEO reign was not without controversy, his leadership led Goldman Sachs to high profitability and renewed prestige. During the period, Blankfein was one of the world's most influential and wealthiest financiers, surpassing the billion-dollar mark in estimated net worth as of 2015. Among his many industry recognitions, Blankfein has twice been named one of the most influential people in the world by TIME Magazine and was the Financial Times' Person of the Year in 2009. He has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the New York Historical Society and the Robin Hood Foundation.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

Coming from “the wrong side of the tracks,” Blankfein was as surprised as anyone to find himself enrolling in Harvard University at the young age of 16. After being recruited on his high school campus by a Harvard representative, Blankfein accepted a combination of financial aid and scholarships that made it possible for him to attend the prestigious school. Surrounded by rich kids, legacy students, and prepsters, the future mogul had to work in the cafeteria to help pay his way. Early on, socializing was difficult because of age and socio-economic differences. But following an errant attempt at joining the Harvard swim team, Blankfein was able to land a spot on the freshman crew. Eventually Blankfein went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1975, performing well enough academically to be accepted by Harvard Law School that same year.

Since taking Wall Street by storm, Blankfein's fingerprints have been all over his alma mater's campus in multiple ways. In 2014 Blankfein made one of his many return visits to Harvard for a public event where the alum gave insights into his distinguished career and discussed what it was like running a behemoth like Goldman Sachs during financial crises. Besides that, Blankfein has been a member of the Dean's Advisory Board at Harvard Law School, the Board of Dean’s Advisors of Harvard Business School, and the Dean's Council of Harvard University. In terms of philanthropy, Blankfein has generously donated millions to his alma mater, even endowing a professorship in the Department of History, while creating a scholarship fund for lower-income students, thus setting the stage for the next great American dream to flourish on Harvard's campus.