Largest Donors To Business Schools

by on January 8th, 2013

$40 million.

Most of us will not only ever make that kind of money over a lifetime. We’ll also never really know what it would be like to give that kind of money away.

Yet, on Oct. 12 a Chinese immigrant, who in the words of Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria is the “embodiment of the American Dream,” pledged $40 million of his fortune to Harvard’s already well endowed business school.

Dr. James Chao made the generous gift in honor of his late wife, Ruth, even though they never attended the Harvard Business School. However, four of their six daughters, including former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chow, attended HBS.

The $40 million gift is among the top 20 ever received by a business school

The size of Chao’s gift makes it among the top 20 ever received by a school of business. By our calculations, the pledge is the 18th largest ever made to a B-school, though four other donors have also made $40 million gifts. They include Jon Huntsman who handed over $40 million to the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in 1998 and former MacDonald’s CEO Michael Quinlan who earlier this year gave the same amount of money to Loyola University in Chicago which then named its business school after him.

But the Chao gift begs the question: What are the largest gifts ever made to business schools?

The record remains David Booth’s $300 million to the University of Chicago’s Business School

Four years ago, David Booth pledged $300 million to the University of Chicago’s business school, which promptly named itself after him. That remains the largest single gift ever made to a B-school. The gift was brought in by then Dean Edward Snyder who was also dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School when Frank Batten Sr. made what was in 1999 the largest gift to a business school: $60 million. Snyder is now dean of Yale’s School of Management.

The second and third-largest gifts have gone to Stanford’s Graduate School of Business: last year’s $150 million pledge by Robert and Dorothy King in support of social enterprise and a $105 million gift in 2006 by Nike founder Phil Knight to help construct the school’s new campus.

Overall, some 25 donors have given business schools at least $35 million or more.


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