In the last month, Professor Robert Nydick has done a double take as he walks through one of the main meeting spaces in Bartley Hall at Villanova University’s School of Business, a space formerly known as the Founders Lobby. The once shabby room has been given a makeover, outfitted with new furniture, charging stations and other amenities. As of last week, the space was renamed the Nydick Family Commons, a nod to the generous gift that he and his family recently gave to the business school.
“It is a little odd walking through the building and seeing part of it that has my name on it,” said Nydick, who has taught at Villanova for the last 28 years; his two sons are alums of the business school, as well. “Usually the people are either dead or certainly are not working at the institution, so it is humbling.”
Nydick, a professor of management and operations, made history this fall when his family donated $2 million to the school through their family foundation. The gift will go towards expanding the school’s robust business analytics program, with the goal of eventually offering a major in the subject. A portion of the gift also helped the school renovate the lobby. It is the largest gift by a faculty member at the business school, and comes on the heels of a $1 million donation made last year by another faculty member, Robert LeClair, that supports international scholarships and programming abroad for students.
‘THE FIRST GIFT WAS A SHOCKER’
LeClair’s donation, the first of the two gifts, came just a year after Patrick Maggitti took over as dean of Villanova’s business school. Maggitti admits he was surprised when he first learned LeClair would be making a seven-figure gift to the school back in 2013. “The first was a shocker as a relatively new dean and a $2 million gift now just ups the ante,” he said.
Business schools have well-oiled development offices with staff that are often as skilled as Wall Street investment bankers in identifying wealthy alums and donors who can give at a high level, or already have a track record of giving. But until recently, business professors have not been a major focus for development officers. That may slowly be starting to change as veteran business professors with long histories at the school are looking to have an impact on the departments they teach in beyond just the classroom.
Nydick and LeClair are part of a small and elite group of business professors over the last few years that have given significant gifts to their schools, making pledges of $1 million or more in some cases. At Baruch’s Zicklin School of Business in New York, Professor Narendra Paul Loomba gave $3 million to the school that went towards supporting new programs and research at the school’s department of management. This past spring, Sridhar Tayur of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and his wife gave $1 million to the business school for construction of the school’s new building project.
PROFS ARE INCREASING GIVING GIFTS TO THEIR SCHOOLS
Business professors are not alone in their charitable spirit towards their workplaces. In recent years, there has been some prominent examples of professors across higher education – from disciplines like music and biotechnology – who have given a significant part of their personal wealth back to the institution where they’ve spent most of their careers, said David Callahan, the founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy, a website that covers foundations and individual donors.
“We’ve definitely noticed professors giving to the school they work at in a number of disciplines,” said Callahan said. “It makes a lot of sense because often you have professors who have long-time associations with these schools and the university, and really know well what the needs of the schools are.”
That was the case for the Zicklin School’s Loomba, who has served at the business school for 46 years as a management professor, and decided to give $3 million to his department.
“It was only natural and desirable that the gift should go to the department where I had the privilege to serve for such a long time,” he said.
‘IF EACH PROF AND STUDENTS MAKES EVEN A SMALL GIFT, THE TOTAL CAN BE QUITE LARGE’
Loomba had been mulling giving a gift to the school for several years, he said, and the opportune time came when he learned the school was going to rename the department. It is now called The Narendra Paul Loomba Department of Management, and his donation has gone towards developing new programs and supporting management faculty in research and teaching.
He’s hoping his gift will have an impact beyond just the management department and encourage other faculty to donate money as well, even if it is just $100 a year, he said. “If each faculty member and each currently enrolled student makes even a small gift, the total amount going to Baruch College could be quite large,” he said.
At Villanova, the seven-figure gifts already seem to be having a ripple effect among faculty members. Several faculty members have stepped forward this fall to discuss giving six-figure gifts to the school, said Villanova Dean Maggitti.