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Big day for big money

Victoria Liu/Daily
University President Mary Sue Coleman speaks at an event celebrating Stephen Ross' $200 million donation to the School of Business and the Athletic Department. Buy this photo

By Peter Shahin, Daily News Editor
and Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 4, 2013

A maize carpet lined the entrance to the Ross School of Business Wednesday morning. Just hours after the University announced the largest single donation in the school’s history, a celebratory event — including a performance by the Michigan Marching Band — welcomed Business students and administrators.

The event was held to thank philanthropist and real estate mogul Stephen Ross's record-breaking $200-million donation, which will be split between his namesake school and the Athletic Department. Nearly 10 years after a $100-million donation to the business school that bears his name, Ross said the newest donation will “finish the job and do it right.”

Students packed the event, donning maize shirts that read “Welcome Home” with a quotation from Ross on the back: “You get by giving.” The crowd, which included many high-level University administrators, collected in the Business School atrium and heard speeches from Ross, University President Mary Sue Coleman, Business School Dean Alison Davis-Blake and Business graduate student Damian Chatman, president of the school’s student government association.

Ross, who is founder and chairman of the Related Companies and has a Forbes-estimated net worth of $4.4 billion, said while his first donation helped advance the Business School, the new gift will take it to new heights.

“It’s really exciting also to know that we can see this facility knowing that we can finish the rest of the campus and really make it the best business school in the country,” Ross said.

Coleman spoke to the audience before Ross, first joking about the timeliness of the announcement: “I think the first day of classes every year should start this way.”

Coleman said she was with Ross in 2004 when he announced his first $100-million donation, adding that she was thrilled the most recent donation happened during her term as president.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, Ross said he was actively recruited by the Business School for the latest gift. Besides the extensive renovations to the “business campus,” the donation will also help provide financial aid and an expansion of career services. Separately, the $100-million gift to the Athletic Department will help fund a variety of programs for student-athletes and new construction projects.

“Athletics — just knowing the spirit and importance of athletics — led me to give my gifts to the Athletic Department, knowing how it helps the whole University,” Ross said.

When asked about his role as chair of the University’s soon-to-launch capital campaign, Ross said he hopes to help raise money for various realms of campus life.

“I hope we raise the funding that we need for scholarships, additional facilities, endowment of professorships and meet the future needs of the University,” Ross said.

The public event was followed by a more intimate one in the Colloquium Room of the Business School, which overlooks campus and much of Ann Arbor. Members of the media, a select group of students and the University’s top administrators gathered to hear additional remarks from Regent Katherine White, Coleman, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, Davis-Blake and Ross.

“We are delighted and grateful for alumni and donors like Stephen Ross, who understand so well that public universities increasingly rely on donor support to maintain and strengthen our excellence,” White said on behalf of the University’s Board of Regents. “We also know when the University of Michigan thrives, the state of Michigan thrives.”

In an e-mail interview after the event, White added that she was hopeful that Ross’s donation would spur other large donors to consider what they might be able to contribute to the upcoming campaign.

“I am very hopeful we can raise a lot of money for student scholarships,” White said.