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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has received a $118 million gift from alumnus Samuel Tak Lee to fund the study of sustainable real estate development.

It was one of the largest donations in the school’s history.

The money will be used establish a real estate entrepreneurship lab at MIT that will support research and give fellowships to scholars studying development and urbanization. The lab would also be focused on China, Lee said, a country where the real estate sector is rapidly changing.

To put Lee’s money in context:Had he given the gift in 2014, it would have been the ninth-largest gift to an American nonprofit last year and the fourth-largest gift to a Boston-area institution, according to the figures compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

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Lee, who studied civil and environmental engineering at the Cambridge school as an undergraduate and graduate student, made his fortune through the Hong Kong real estate company Prudential Enterprise. His net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $2.8 billion.


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.