News and analysis
May 31, 2016

Gifts Roundup: $15 Million to 92nd Street Y to Boost Social Innovation

92nd Street Y
Laurence Belfer and the Belfer family donated $15 million to support the Center for Innovation & Social Impact at New York's 92nd Street Y. The center has been an incubator for such programs as #GivingTuesday and the Social Good Summit.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

University of Chicago

Michael Polsky, the founder of Invenergy, a wind- and solar-energy company, gave $35 million to endow a number of entrepreneurship programs and unite them under the aegis of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Mr. Polsky has previously given a total of $15 million for such programs. He earned an MBA at the university’s Booth School of Business in 1987. With the new gift, the expanded Polsky Center, previously part of the Booth school, will become an independent university entity.

92nd Street Y

Laurence Belfer and the Belfer family donated $15 million to support the Center for Innovation & Social Impact. The center, which will be renamed for the family, has been an incubator for such programs as #GivingTuesday and the Social Good Summit.

Mr. Belfer is chief executive of Belfer Management, a family investment firm with holdings in energy, real estate, financial services, and other products. He previously led Belco Oil & Gas Corporation. He serves on the 92nd Street Y’s board.

University of Southern California

David Bohnett has pledged $15 million to build a new residential college focusing on social justice and community service. The facility will be named for the donor.

The money will also endow a fellowship in public policy at USC’s Price School of Public Policy and a professorship in social entrepreneurship at its Marshall School of Business.

Mr. Bonnet founded the media and e-commerce company GeoCities, which he sold to Yahoo in 1999. He graduated from USC in 1978 and currently serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Montana State University

Greg and Susan Gianforte committed $8 million to support the newly named Gianforte School of Computing, as well as other programs.

The couple will pay off the pledge over the next five years through their family foundation. Of the total, $5 million will establish an endowment for the computing school, $1 million will go to its current needs, and $2 million will back the university’s South Campus development.

Mr. Gianforte founded the software company RightNow Technologies, which he sold to Oracle in 2012 for $1.8 billion. He is currently running for governor of Montana.

Washington University in St. Louis

Mike and Tana Powell committed $8 million to match gifts from other donors for professorships in chemistry and other disciplines

Mr. Powell is managing general partner of Sofinnova Ventures, a biopharmaceutical investment firm. Ms. Powell is a graphic designer and artist. Their daughter, Landis, graduated from the university last month with a bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary sciences.

University of Miami

Louis Appignani, a retired businessman who formerly led the international modeling school Barbizon, gave $2.2 million through his foundation to support the study of atheism.

The gift will be used to establish and endow the Appignani Foundation Chair for the Study of Atheism, Humanism, and Secular Ethics.

University of Houston

Victor and Barbara Samuels pledged $1 million to endow scholarships for students attending the Graduate College of Social Work. They gave a previous gift for such scholarships in 2014.

Mr. Samuels founded Victory Packaging in 1976. Ms. Samuels is a University of Houston alumna and was a longtime instructor at the university’s Clear Lake campus.

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