Related story: The Business School held an event Wednesday morning to celebrate Ross’ donation. Read about it here.
Not to be outdone by Charles Munger, philanthropist and real estate mogul Stephen M. Ross nearly doubled the size of the previous biggest donation in University history with a pledge of $200 million. Ross will also serve as the chairman of the University’s upcoming multi-year fundraising initiative set to begin in November.
The donation — reportedly to be split between the Athletic Department and the University’s business school that bears his name — elevates Ross’s total giving to the University to $313 million. His new total inches him up the ranks of top university donors in the nation. According to statistics compiled by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, this donation would put Ross second behind Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, who pledged $350 million to Johns Hopkins University earlier this year.
The donation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal early Wednesday morning. In a press release at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, the University outlined some of its goals for the donated money. The business school is set to receive increased scholarship funding, renovations to the old portions of the school’s complex to “seamlessly integrate (it) both inside and out to create one campus,” and a host of new student services.
“I am thrilled to be able to make such an impactful contribution and to not only help write the next chapter for the University, but also offer much-needed scholarships to ensure we continue to attract the best and the brightest students and provide them with the financial resources they need,” Ross said in a statement.
In addition, the press release stated that the athletic campus would be renamed the “Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus,” pending approval by the University’s Board of Regents. The athletic campus is set to receive new world-class facilities and provide new academic opportunities to student-athletes geared at preparing them for post-graduation professional success.
“Stephen Ross shares our vision for an athletic campus that provides every student-athlete access to world-class facilities to successfully train and compete at the highest level athletically and academically,” Athletic Director Dave Brandon said in a statement.
In an interview with the Journal, Ross, 73, said the donation will “finish the job” in completing renovations on the Business School’s other buildings. In the last fifteen years, every one of the top 10 business schools in the country has spent at least $30 million on upgrades to its facilities. One of the chief factors in convincing Ross to give his original $100 million donation was to help keep Michigan’s business school competitive with peer institutions.
“I believe you give till it feels good,” Ross told the newspaper.
Ross is the founder and chairman of Related Companies, a large real-estate development firm based in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan’s Business School in 1962 and later went on to earn his J.D. at Wayne State University in 1965. Ross founded Related Companies in 1972 — which has since flourished into a $15 billion enterprise.
As of March 2013, Ross’ personal net worth was valued by Forbes at $4.4 billion. He is also the owner of the Miami Dolphins football team.
The Ross School of Business is no stranger to sizeable donations. In 2004, Ross donated $100 million for the school’s extensive reconstruction, which opened in 2009. In honor of his contribution, the Board of Regents voted in a special session to rename the school after its largest benefactor. Ross now serves as chair for the upcoming capital campaign, which will focus on extending greater financial aid, among other goals. The campaign is set to launch on November 8.
Ross serves on University President Mary Sue Coleman’s Advisory Group in addition to the Director’s Cabinet in the University’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. His other gifts to the University include a $5 million donation toward a new athletic academic center, $1 million to establish a professorship in real estate at Ross and $50,000 to establish the Henry Pearce Endowed Fellowship in LSA.
Wednesday’s gift is only the latest in a series of large donations to the University as public universities increase their focus on private donations due to lowered government support in Michigan. During the last few months, the University has been the beneficiary of several gifts targeted at graduate programs, housing and revamping certain medical facilities.
In April, the University received a $110 million donation from Alum Charles Munger, the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, to build a graduate housing complex at Division and Madison Streets, on land where the Blimpy Burger restaurant and several rental houses once stood. At the time, Munger’s gift topped only Ross’ $100 million gift to his now-namesake Business School in 2004. Munger’s donation will help fund the $180 million residence project and includes $10 million for fellowships to help create a residential community.
A $50-million donation from the Zell Family Foundation, granted to the LSA Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, is the largest donation in that college’s history. The March donation, will help ease the financial burden of those participating in the program to ensure they will have the resources to continually practice and hone their writing abilities.
And finally, the Frankel family has given a total of $50 million to the University’s Cardiovascular Center in the last decade — with $25 million donated in 2007 and another $25 million in March of this year. The center now ranks 12th in the nation for its specialty.