"There are so many issues that could be well-served by that kind of approach," he said.
Hughes said he was introduced to Kleinman by the university's development office.
"He and I hit it off and began to think of ways that his philanthropy could have impact, which was what he was looking for," Hughes said.
The $10 million commitment must be spent in five years. "This is so well-resourced for the mission, it was irresistible," Hughes said.
Kleinman, 41, is the lead partner of private equity at Apollo Global Management L.L.C. in New York, which bills itself as one of the world's largest alternative investment managers. The Scarsdale, N.Y., native received bachelor's degrees in Russian studies and finance from Penn in 1994.
Kleinman declined to be interviewed, but in a statement, he outlined his approach:
"As a nation, we do not have a clearly articulated energy policy that promotes economic growth, energy optimization, and technological development, all in the context of a sensible environmental backdrop," he said. "Energy policy is a critical topic at both the local and national level, and will only continue to grow in importance over time."
The center, which will open this fall, will be housed in the third and fourth floors of the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the space where famed architect Louis I. Kahn once held his master studio.
One of the center's missions is to accelerate existing energy research in engineering, arts and science, business, and law to focus on policy applications, Hughes said. The center will directly support research, doctoral students, and internships.
Amy Gutmann, Penn's president, said the center "will galvanize all the university's strengths and resources to advance the transformation of U.S. energy policy for a productive, secure and sustainable energy future."
The center will also invite leading energy-policy thinkers to Penn to teach and lecture.
"I want to inaugurate the annual Kleinman lecture on energy policy, which becomes, I hope, the nation's most forward-thinking policy-shaping lecture each year," Hughes said.
The center's signature mission will be to support the creation of new policies. Hughes said a recent model would be Colorado's tougher air-pollution rules for oil and gas drilling. The new policy grew out of a collaboration between oil and gas producers and environmental advocates.
"We want the center to be a real place, not just for the campus community, but for policymakers and industry leaders to come to work through these issues," Hughes said.
He said he was assembling an advisory board of diverse leaders who will help the center focus on achievable projects.