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September 11, 2004

New Record In The Academic Arms Race

FROM THE VANGUARD OF PHILANTHROPIC LARGESSE comes a noteworthy new record in the annals of collegiate giving.

Detroit native and Michigan alum, Stephen Ross, has pledged $100 million to the U of M business school. Mr. Ross is the founder and chairman of the Related Companies, which developed the $1.7-billion Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan.

The school will be renamed the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

The largest donation ever to a American business school, the Ross pledge is but one of dozens of examples of an academic arms race that go far less noticed that smaller, less frequent gifts to college athletics programs.

Like many a philanthropist before him, Mr. Ross wanted to “give back” to the institution that helped get him started (he earned an accounting degree from Michigan in 1962). Businessmen like Ross have moved on from college studies to fabulously lucrative careers in real estate, Wall Street, media, banking, technology or entertainment.

Similarly, there have been thousands of football and basketball athletes who have moved on to from college stardom to lucrative professional careers.

However, there is a staggering difference in the amount of accumulated wealth between the elite of professional athletes and the elite of businessmen.

Professional athletes have peak earning potential—running at about $5-$10 million per year these days—for less than ten years.

Meanwhile, the top level of successful businessmen often have a much longer peak earning potential—as many as 30-40-50 years—and their far-reaching investments, alliances, mergers, stock splits and real estate bonanzas are often measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year (or per deal).

It’s no wonder that top athletes donate to college athletic programs in “only” the million dollar range and top businessmen donate to general college funds in the hundred million dollar range.

And what would the rest of us do with spare money if we had that much?


Compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac, the following lists major private gifts since 1967. Amazingly, there are 51--fifty one!--gifts of $100 million or more (the amount of the Ross gift to Michigan that was just announced).

Gates Millennium Scholars program: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, $1-billion; 1999

California Institute of Technology: Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, $600-million, 2001

Stanford University: Hewlett Foundation, $400-million; 2001

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: anonymous donor, $360-million; 2001

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Patrick and Lore McGovern, $350-million; 2000

Univ. of Arkansas: Walton Family Foundation, $300-million; 2002

Emory University: Evans, Whitehead, and Woodruff Foundations, $295-million; 1996

New York University: Sir Harold Acton, $250-million; 1994

University of Colorado System: William and Claudia Coleman, $250-million; 2001

University of Texas: John Jackson, $232-million; 2002

Ave Maria University: Thomas Monaghan, $200-million; 2002

Olin College of Engineering: Olin Foundation, est. $200-million; 1997

UCLA School of Medicine: David Geffen, $200-million; 2002

Vanderbilt University: Ingram Fund, $178-million; stock; 1998

Johns Hopkins University: Sidney Kimmel, $150-million; 2001

New York University: Julius Silver, $150-million; 2002

Polytechnic University: Donald and Mildred Othmer, $144; 1998

DePauw University: Ruth and Philip Holton, $128-million; 1997

Louisiana State University: Claude B. Pennington, $125-million; 1981

University of Nebraska: Mildred Topp Othmer, $125-million; 1998

University of Utah: Jon M. Huntsman, $125-million; 2000

LaGrange College and Mercer University: Remer and Emily Crum, $123-million; 2000

University of Pennsylvania: Walter H. Annenberg, $120-million; 1993

University of Southern California: Walter H. Annenberg, $120-million; 1993

University of Southern California: Alfred E. Mann, $112.5-million; 1998

University of California at San Diego: Irwin and Joan Jacobs, $110-million; 2003

University of Southern California: W.M. Keck Foundation, $110-million; 1999

Emory University: Robert W. Woodruff, $105-million; 1979

Indiana University: Lilly Endowment, $105-million; 2000

U-Cal at San Francisco: Catellus Development Corp., $101.3-million; 1999

The Broad Institute: Eli and Edythe Broad, $100-million; 2003

Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve Univ.: Alfred and Norma Lerner, $100-million; 2002

Cornell University: anonymous, $100-million; 1999

Cornell University Medical College: Sanford and Joan Weill, $100-million; 1998

Cornell University Medical College: Sanford and Joan Weill, $100-million; 2002

Johns Hopkins University: anonymous, $100-million; 2001

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Kenan Sahin, $100-million; 1999

Princeton University: Gordon Y.S. Wu, $100-million; 1995

Regent University: Christian Broadcasting Network, $100-million; 1992

Rowan University: Henry and Betty Rowan, $100-million; 1992

Scripps Institute: Samuel and Aline Skaggs, $100-million; 1996

Stanford University, Packard Children's Hospital: Packard Foundation, $100-million; 2001

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology: Alfred Mann, $100-million; 2004

University of Michigan: Stephen M. Ross; $100-million; 2004

University of Mississippi, Barksdale Reading Institute: James and Sally Barksdale; $100-million; 2000

University of North Dakota: Ralph and Betty Engelstad, $100-million; 1998

University of Pennsylvania: Abramson Foundation, $100-million; 1997

University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication: Annenberg Foundation, $100-million; 2002

University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication: Annenberg Foundation, $100-million; 2002

Washington University: Danforth Foundation, $100-million; 1986

Washington University: Danforth Foundation, $100-million; 1997

(this 784 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was distilled from a 2413 word article in The Chronicle of Higher Education of 9-10-04, plus the Chronicle 2004-05 Almanac)