It is not every day that a
university receives a multi-million-dollar gift, and gifts over $50
million are even more exceptional. Lighting struck Thursday, when
University alum and real estate mogul Stephen Ross announced his
donation of $100 million to the University’s Business School
— the largest such donation in University history. After
several years of well-publicized financial woes, the news could not
have come at a better time. This is a landmark achievement for the
business school and its dean, Robert Dolan, as well as the
University as a whole.

As a direct result of this donation, students of the present and
future will benefit from the physical and educational improvements
that such a large and generous gift facilitates. According to
Dolan, a large portion of the donation will be used to revamp the
facility and create more areas that foster group- activities. The
rest will be used for an endowment fund.

In the middle of a $2.5 billion fund-raising campaign, this gift
will certainly get the university some much-needed publicity. Dolan
and University President Mary Sue Coleman deserve recognition for a
huge achievement that will not only fill the coffers at the
Business School, but also raise its profile nationally.

It is also important to recognize the impact of this gift beyond
its monetary value. Ross’s donation embodies the sort of
positive connection that students and alumni should have toward
their alma mater. Those who receive an education from a public
University should feel a responsibility to give back.

Yet, with all the attention surrounding the gift, it is
important to remember that there are dozens of other academic units
that are struggling under budget cuts to maintain their current
levels of educational and institutional quality. Clearly, the
University cannot rely solely on private contributions, which are
no substitute for strong and consistent support from the state.
This gift should not preclude Lansing from providing the funding it
promised last spring en lieu of larger tuition hikes.

Furthermore, while the University Board of Regents was correct
in voting to rename the Business School in honor of its greatest
benefactor, the University also has a long tradition of naming its
buildings after those who gave notable service to the institution,
regardless of personal wealth. This is a tradition that should be
preserved.

While the University is a public school, there is no doubt that
it relies heavily on private donations, such as Ross’s, in
order to maintain its stature as a leading university. The
contribution marks a milestone not only for the University, but it
also surpasses gifts to other business schools nationwide by nearly
50 percent. And while money alone does not make a quality
university, it is an important component of most university
initiatives. As Coleman commented after announcing the news,
“It will help students who aren’t even born
yet.”

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