News and analysis
February 29, 2016

Gifts Roundup: $400 Million to Stanford U. From Nike Co-Founder


Phil Knight's $400 million to Stanford University will Knight-Hennessy Scholars program and train students of different backgrounds to become the next generation of global leaders.

Stanford University

Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of Nike, gave $400 million to Stanford University to establish the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program, a graduate program that aims to prepare the next generation of global leaders.

The program is named for Mr. Knight and Stanford’s outgoing president, John Hennessy, who will serve as inaugural director of the program after he steps down.

The program will annually accept 100 high-achieving students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities with demonstrated leadership and civic commitment. Scholars will receive financial support for three years to pursue master’s or doctorate degrees or professional programs that will develop their capability to lead.

Mr. Knight received a master’s in business administration from Stanford in 1962. In 2006, he donated $105 million to the university to build a new campus for its graduate business school and to support faculty endowment.

University of Southern California

Harlan Helvey, an alumnus of the university, gave $15 million to update the Leventhal School of Accounting building, which was built in 1926.

The donation will cover the complete renovation, which will upgrade the building to support technological and collaborative needs.

Mr. Helvey is a certified public accountant and a real-estate investor. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the university in 1964 and an MBA in 1971.

Georgetown University

Norman and Irma Braman will give $10 million to endow a program that focuses on the forensic study of the Holocaust at the university’s Center for Jewish Civilization.

The donation will support an endowed professorship as well as related research, teaching, and public-service programs.

Mr. Braman is owner of Braman Enterprises, a Miami-based company that operates several car dealerships.

Indiana University at Bloomington

Mary Wennerstrom, on behalf of herself and her late husband, Leonard Phillips, pledged $6.5 million to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music to provide piano scholarships and to endow a directorship in the William and Gayle Cook Music Library.

Ms. Wennerstrom is associate dean emerita of instruction at the Jacobs School of Music. She earned a bachelor’s in piano and master’s and doctorate degrees in music theory from the university. Mr. Phillips worked with the university’s foundation, retiring as director of special programs for the Jacobs School. He earned a doctorate in musicology from the university. He died in October 2015.

Carnegie Mellon University

The Posner family of Pittsburgh gave $5 million to provide undergraduate student scholarships. The donation will add to the Presidential Fellowships and Scholarships program, which recruits and retains high-achieving students from around the world, as well as the faculty members who serve as their mentors.

The late Henry Posner Jr. was a trustee of the university. He was president of his father’s billboard company, Pittsburgh Outdoor Advertising Corporation, before he served as chairman of the Hawthorne Group, an investment management company. He died in 2011.

Drexel University

An anonymous donor has given $3.5 million to Drexel University for a program at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute that will help autistic young adults transition to adulthood.

Called "Transition Pathways," the program will try to prevent high-school seniors and recent graduates from falling off the "services cliff," a term used to describe what happens when a person ages out of high-school support programs. The program will provide internship opportunities and enable its participants to audit courses at Drexel.

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