News and analysis
August 29, 2016

Gifts Roundup: $100-Million Donation Preserves Huge Swath of Maine Woods

Robert F. Bukaty, AP Images

Roxanne Quimby, the former owner of natural-products company Burt’s Bees, donated land and cash worth $100 million to establish the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Maine. The gift was made to mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

National Park Foundation

Conservationist and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby and her family donated 87,500 acres of land in Maine’s North Woods, valued at about $60 million, for a new national monument that will be open to the public.

The family also gave $20 million to create an endowment to help the federal government pay for operations and upkeep at the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and pledged an additional $20 million for future projects at the site.

The gift marks the end of a years-long effort by Ms. Quimby to establish a national park on the land in time for this week’s celebration of the National Park Service’s centennial. Some area residents and state leaders opposed the proposal, and a group of Maine Congressional representatives blocked legislation necessary to establish the park. President Obama last week used the authority granted to presidents by the Antiquities Act of 1906 to bypass Congress and declare the donated land a national monument.

University of Houston

Texas restaurateur Tilman Fertitta gave $20 million to renovate and expand the university’s basketball arena. The facility, formerly known as Hofheinz Pavilion, was renamed the Fertitta Center.

Mr. Fertitta owns Landry’s Inc., a restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality company, and he co-founded Landcadia, a business-acquisition firm. He is chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents.

Yale University

Business mogul Leonard Blavatnik gave $10 million through the Blavatnik Family Foundation to establish the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation, which will back life-sciences projects and research with commercial potential.

The money will also be used to create the Blavatnik Fellows Program. The program will pair young professionals with Yale researchers, inventors, investors, and business leaders to develop new companies around drugs, treatments, and tools arising from scientific discoveries made through the Blavatnik Fund.

Mr. Blavatnik founded Access Industries, which has holdings in oil, entertainment, coal, aluminum, petrochemicals and plastics, telecommunications, media, and real estate in Europe and North and South America.

American Civil Liberties Union and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

Actor Amber Heard pledged a total of $7 million to the two nonprofits.

Half of the gift will benefit ACLU programs addressing violence against women. The other $3.5-million gift will support programs for critically ill children at the Los Angeles pediatric hospital, where Ms. Heard is a longtime volunteer.

The money is from a settlement associated with Ms. Heard’s divorce from actor Johnny Depp.

Indiana University at Bloomington

Ralph Collins Walter, a retired investment analyst and economist, gave $6 million to support the College of Arts & Sciences.

Half of the donation will create scholarships in the college’s career center, which will be renamed for the donor. The remaining $3 million will endow new professorships in the history and economics departments.

Mr. Walter earned a master’s degree in economics from the university in 1972. He is a former chief operating officer and treasurer at Kayne Anderson Rudnick, an investment-management firm.

Florida Atlantic University

Phil and Susan Smith donated $5 million to establish the Phil Smith Center for Free Enterprise, which will be part of the university’s business school. The center will house research and educational programs for faculty members and students.

Mr. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida Atlantic in 1969. He went on to found Phil Smith Management, which operates automobile dealerships in Florida and North Carolina.

To learn about other big donations, see our database of gifts of $1 million or more, which is updated throughout the week.

Send an email to Maria Di Mento.