What happens when you hand 50 million dollars to a small business school at a Midwestern U.S. public university, telling them, essentially, “You’re doing a great job — keep up the good work”?
We’re about to find out.
The University of Kansas School of Business announced September 5 that it has received the largest donation in school history, and among the three to four dozen largest gifts ever bestowed upon a B-school: a $50 million gift from an anonymous donor that the school announced will “transform business education and research at the school” — and which comes with, essentially, no strings attached.
“This transformative gift supports the School of Business’ ongoing commitment to excellence in research and student success,” says Paige Fields, KU School of Business dean. “It will allow our school to further invest in our current mission-driven initiatives, to pursue aspirational objectives and to identify future opportunities, ensuring we continue delivering relevant, innovative business education.”
GIFT WILL FUND 'KEY INITIATIVES SUPPORTING UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT SUCCESS'
2023 has been a year of history-making gifts for a few U.S. B-schools. In February, New York University's Stern School of Business announced that it had received the largest gift in its history, a testamentary gift of $53.6 million from alumnus Anne Tasca, a real estate magnate, to support student scholarships at the undergraduate and MBA levels. That same month, Purdue University's newly renamed Daniels School of Business received its largest-ever gift, $50 million, from the Dean and Barbara White Family Foundation to rename the undergraduate business program. And in May, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business announced the receipt of $100 million to support the school's Ph.D. program.
Kansas' $50 million gift, which the school says "will provide funds to advance key initiatives supporting undergraduate student success," comes at the culmination of a strategic planning process that began in 2017-2018. In that span, the B-school with campuses in Lawrence and Leavenworth launched certificate programs, revamped its undergrad curriculum and added flexibility to undergraduate admissions, and introduced a master’s degree in business analytics. The school also enhanced research incentives for tenure-track faculty in the last six years and built out previously unfinished spaces in Capitol Federal Hall to accommodate growth in the school.
Kansas School of Business' full-time MBA program had 33 students in its fall 2023 intake. The program ranks 78th in U.S. News, up from 79th in 2022 but down from a high of 68th in 2020. Kansas' MBA ranked 88th by Poets&Quants in 2023, down from 77th in 2022. Kansas also has master's of accounting, business analytics, organizational leadership, and supply chain management, as well as an online MBA that U.S. News ranked tied for seventh overall last year, up nine spots in one year. Kansas' online MBA was unranked by P&Q in 2023.
FUNDING PRIORITIES: SCHOLARSHIPS, ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMS & DEI
With the massive new gift, the school announced September 5, the anonymous donor is expressing "a strong belief in the school’s future and a desire to help propel its stature." Essentially, he or she is saying "Keep up the good work."
The school says that work will include providing resources for several priorities, among them improving the quality and quantity of scholarly output by underwriting faculty professorships and fellowships. The gift will also "bolster student success priorities including the school’s recently revamped entrepreneurship programs; career-focused opportunities within the school’s EY Professionalism Program; and scholarship, retention and programmatic efforts among diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), study abroad and academic enrichment programs," amid record growth in student enrollment.
“While a gift of this size is certainly newsworthy, it’s what this gift will enable that is truly worth noting,” says Dan Martin, president of the KU Endowment. “The impact of such a sizable gift will have a ripple effect that extends well beyond this current moment in time. We are honored and humbled by the donor’s choice to invest in the School of Business and look forward to sharing future success stories that will be written because of their generosity.”
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