Money watch

Five Big-Time Donations Funding Higher Ed

Seems like COVID-era pronouncements of the death of traditional higher education were premature, at least when it comes to receiving donations from corporate and alumni donors. The recent survey from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) ran the numbers: Voluntary support of U.S. higher education institutions totaled $59.50 billion in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2022. That is an increase of 12.5% —$6.6 billion—over the previous fiscal year. Among the 781 institutions that reported in 2021 and 2022, support increased 11%. Nearly two-thirds of this core group reported their charitable giving totals increased by an average of 25.7%.

2023 reports indicate the spigot has not been turned off. Here are some of the most recent:

The Simons Foundation, a philanthropy working to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences, announced this month a historic $500 million endowment gift to Stony Brook University. The combined largesse of the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International — is the largest unrestricted donation to an institution of higher education in U.S. history.

The amount is expected to grow by up to $1 billion in contributions for Stony Brook University’s endowment by capitalizing on New York State’s 1:2 endowment matching program and other philanthropy inspired by this gift. According to university officials, the donation will cement Stony Brook’s place as New York’s flagship research institution and provide the means to invest in areas most urgent and necessary to help sustain the university’s commitment to educational excellence, research innovation and community support. “In 1960, we were given a mandate by the State Board of Regents to become a university that would ‘stand with the finest in the country,’” University President Maurie McInnis said. “Thanks in large part to the generosity of the Simons Foundation, we have done just that, and we have no intention of slowing down. 

Oklahoma State University will receive a $120 million gift from the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, OSU President Kayse Shrum announced this month. Pickens passed away on Sept. 11, 2019. He was an energy executive, OSU alumnus and transformative philanthropist whose giving to OSU now approaches $650 million.

According to school officials, the majority of the gift — $63.7 million — will go toward student scholarships, helping to ensure more students have access to higher education and can pursue their dreams without financial burden. This gift will be designated to the Pickens legacy scholarship funds and will double the impact of donor contributions. Additionally, $25 million will support the recently announced OSU Human Performance Innovation Complex which will enhance the health and wellness among students, OSU athletes and the broader Oklahoma community. The facility will house the Human Performance and Nutrition Research Institute (HPNRI) and the Cowboy Football Center. “Physical, mental and spiritual health played a big part in Boone’s life,” said Jay Rosser, T. Boone Pickens Foundation director. “Boone’s passion for health and research programs is evidenced by his philanthropic support for a wide range of world-class institutions, including MD Anderson, UT Southwestern, the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, the Center for Brain Health in Dallas and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, among others. He would be pleased OSU is positioning itself through HPNRI to discover and apply evidence-informed solutions to improve lives.”

GameAbove at Eastern Michigan University, an alumni-led philanthropic group advancing academic and athletic programs, announced this week a $1.6 million gift to the university’s College of Engineering and Technology (GACET). The new commitment will support the launch of a Cybersecurity for Embedded Systems initiative, enhance offerings within cybersecurity and the Internet of Things, including research in cybersecurity for vehicles and mobility, and establish a dedicated Cybersecurity Certificate Program that caters to students and business professionals alike.

EMU GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology

“Our goal has always been for the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology to be known as the foremost cybersecurity program in the country,” says Keith J. Stone, chair of GameAbove. “We will not deviate from this standard of quality. The steps that GameAbove, Dean Qatu, and EMU’s leadership are taking, including this gift, illustrate our unity and our full commitment to providing the proper resources to ensure the program’s enduring success.”

The GACET School of Information Security and Applied Computing cybersecurity program is one of EMU’s fastest-growing majors and a national leader in offering education and training to defend against cyber-attacks and protect sensitive and personal data. It was among the first in the U.S. to offer a cybersecurity major and secure ABET accreditation and a National Security Agency (NSA) certification. The program provides undergraduate and graduate degrees and a flexible combination of online and in-person courses to meet the demand for personalized instruction and career-oriented. The NSA redesignated EMU’s GACET as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense this year through the 2028 academic year. “Cybersecurity and other related fields, including artificial intelligence, internet of things, and embedded systems, are among the fastest growing fields of interest to individuals as well as public and private employers,” said Mohamad Qatu, dean of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. “These areas of study and research are touching our lives in many ways. Job growth in these areas is amongst the highest in the nation and worldwide.”

bp announced this spring it is investing $4.05 million in three historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) to provide students with scholarship funding, exposure to the energy industry, and career development experience. As part of bp’s new HBCU Fellowship Program, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T University, and Prairie View A&M University will each receive $1.35 million, covering five full scholarships per year at each school for three years for a total of 45 full scholarships during that period. Students who successfully complete the program will be provided with opportunities for additional development, including internships.

Mark Crawford, bp’s senior vice president, global diversity, equity and inclusion, said: “We need the best and the brightest talent as we transform our company. We are thrilled to work with these great universities and provide students with an opportunity to earn a degree while giving them real-world experience in the exciting and evolving energy sector.”

The donation builds on bp’s aim for greater diversity, equity and inclusion for its workforce and customers. The company has taken steps in recent years to develop a global framework for action to guide its efforts in the areas of talent, accountability, and transparency. As a result, it has launched gender and minority ambitions and designed programs supporting the development of ethnic minority talent.

The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) donated $200,000 to Bucks County Community College, a public community college located nearby ELC’s long-held manufacturing and distribution operations in Bristol, PA. This donation, which marks the largest single corporate investment the college has received in its 60-year history, will help advance supply chain education and employment opportunities for students in the local community and lay the foundation for a comprehensive, multi-year career readiness program. “As one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributers of prestige beauty products, The Estée Lauder Companies is committed to investing in the supply chain talent of the future,” said Roberto Canevari, Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain, The Estée Lauder Companies. “We are thrilled to offer Bucks County Community College students an opportunity to advance their education and be exposed to the vast career opportunities available in supply chain.”

This donation is expected to fund scholarships for local students with expressed interest in supply chain to complete their two-year Associates degree at Bucks County Community College on-campus or online. Students will obtain experiential learning opportunities at ELC’s Bristol, PA facilities to gain real-world insights into supply chain, manufacturing, and distribution operations. ELC leaders will also serve as mentors for these students.

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Kevin Hogan

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