This week brought news that three public research universities had received private donations of historic proportions. These major gifts are just the latest in what has been a month that’s seen record-setting philanthropy in higher education circles.
University of Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst announced on Thursday that it had received $21.5 million from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation. According to a university statement, it’s the largest cash gift in UMass, Amherst history and comes in addition to gifts that Marieb had previously made of more than $2 million for campus-wide scholarships.
In recognition of the gift, the university’s College of Nursing will be renamed the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing after the late UMass Amherst nursing alumna and bestselling textbook author. Elaine Nicpon Marieb’s textbooks on anatomy and physiology were so popular that in 2016, Time magazine named her seventh on its list of the “100 Most-Read Female Writers in College Classes.”
The gift will help support the university’s nursing engineering center and also provide funds for student scholarships, an endowed professorship, and mentorship and research initiatives designed to increase access, equity and excellence in nursing education.
“We are deeply grateful for this extraordinary gift from the Elaine Nicpon Marieb Charitable Foundation,” said UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy in the university’s announcement. “This gift is an endorsement of the vital role that our College of Nursing plays in preparing nurses for leadership in healthcare. It comes at a time when our society is confronted with unprecedented challenges — challenges that we strive to overcome through innovation, learning and discovery inspired by one of our most distinguished and beloved graduates, Dr. Marieb herself.”
The Marieb gift tops off a record-setting period for the University of Massachusetts system, which earlier in the month, had announced a gift of $50 million from Robert J and Donna Manning, the largest gift in the history of the system.
Iowa State Univerity
Iowa State University received a $42 million gift commitment from alumni C.G. “Turk” and Joyce A. McEwen Therkildsen this week. The gift will go toward the construction of a new academic facility for Iowa State’s Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering. On Wednesday, the Iowa Board of Regents Property and Facilities Committee recommended approval for the building to be named “Therkildsen Industrial Engineering” in honor of the Therkildsens.
“Iowa State alumni know that our educational excellence creates a solid foundation for future achievements,” said Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. “This transformational investment by two extraordinary alums, Turk and Joyce Therkildsen, helps to solidify Iowa State University’s prominence in engineering and to prepare our students for success in an increasingly complex, technology-driven world. We are grateful for their generosity.”
The Therkildsen, who met as undergraduates at Iowa State, have made previous donations to Iowa State that established the C.G. “Turk” and Joyce A. Therkildsen Department Chair in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering in 2016 and the C.G. “Turk” and Joyce A. Therkildsen Professorship in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering in 2018.
Turk and Joyce are the semi-retired CEO and Chairman and Corporate Secretary, respectively, of Industrial Hard Chrome, Ltd., based in Geneva, Illinois.
University of Oklahoma
Also last week, the University of Oklahoma (OU) announced it had received a historic gift from the family of Homer L. Dodge, who was a former OU faculty member, chair of the physics department, director of the school of engineering, and dean of its graduate college.
The donation, the amount of which was not disclosed, will be allocated equally between OU’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy and will go largely toward the funding of student scholarships and research fellowships. Two research chairs will also be funded.
In appreciation of the gift, which officials described as “transformational,” the OU Board of Regents approved renaming of the College of Arts and Sciences to the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences.
“This extraordinary gift from the Dodge family is momentous, not only for its size, but for the life-changing impact it will have on our students for generations to come,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “The Dodge family has been a linchpin in our university’s story for over a century, beginning with legendary physics Professor Homer Dodge. This generous gift solidifies their family’s legacy, underscoring their deep commitment to inspiring budding scientists to seize the vanguard of research discoveries. We are profoundly grateful for their unparalleled support and belief in our dynamic vision for a bright future.”
Historically, the largest gifts to colleges and universities have gone to those private institutions that claim a very prosperous alumni base. In addition, the alumni of private institutions are much more likely to make donations compared to public institutions alumni. But in the past few years, large donations to public institutions have picked up, led by mega-gift donations from philanthropists like Mackenzie Scott, Mike Bloomberg and others who have increasingly focused on minority serving universities, community colleges and regional and state-wide institutions that educate large numbers of middle- and working-class students.
In addition to their size, last week’s major gifts to the public universities were distinctive in two other ways: each one came from alumni or close associates of the recipient universities, and each was devoted exclusively to supporting core academic programs at those institutions.