News and analysis
May 09, 2016

Gifts Roundup: Investor Berggruen Puts $500 Million Into His Think Tank

Patrick T. Fallon, Bloomberg, Getty Images
The think tank founded by art collector and investor Nicolas Berggruen hosts conference several times a year in which academics and intellectuals talk about social and political issues the world faces.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

Berggruen Institute

Nicolas Berggruen, an art collector and investor, gave $500 million through his Nicolas Berggruen Charitable Trust to support his eponymous public-policy think tank.

The institute is based in Los Angeles and brings together academics and intellectuals several times a year for conferences that discuss social and political issues the world faces.

Mr. Berggruen founded Berggruen Holdings, invests in real estate, energy, and other businesses, and is involved in private-equity and financial endeavors.

Belmont University

Jim and Janet Ayers donated $15 million through their family foundation to endow scholarships.

The university is naming a building the Janet Ayers Academic Center. Jim Ayers founded FirstBank and Ayers Asset Management, both headquartered in Tennessee.

George Mason University

Dwight and Martha Schar pledged $10 million for the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, which will be renamed the Schar School of Policy and Government.

Mr. Schar is a homebuilder and real-estate developer. He served on the university’s Board of Trustees from 1986 to 1998, and the couple’s daughter is an alumna.

The Schars have previously given the university gifts for a public-policy professorship and to support the government and policy school’s Center for Regional Analysis.

University of Nebraska

Charles Cather, the nephew of author Willa Cather, left $5.8 million to create endowments to support the university’s many Willa Cather programs, including her archive, which Mr. Cather gave the campus in 2011 when he died.

Mr. Cather was an attorney who attended the university for a few years in the early 1940s. He was the son of Willa Cather’s brother James. Ms. Cather, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who died in 1947, was an alumna of the university.

The money will back digital programs related to Ms. Cather’s work; stipends for students studying her; the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition book series; and conferences and seminars focused on her work.

Grinnell College

Carolyn "Kay" Bucksbaum pledged $5 million to create two endowments to help expand the college’s Global Grinnell Program.

The first endowment will support a new leadership post for the college’s international education programs. The second will back internships abroad, scholarships for global course work and language studies, and faculty and student research.

Ms. Bucksbaum graduated from the college in 1951 and is the widow of Matthew Bucksbaum, former chief executive of General Growth Properties, a company that develops and manages shopping malls. Mr. Bucksbaum died in 2013.

University of Kansas

Irving Kuraner, a lawyer who died in 2014, left $4 million to endow scholarships for undergraduate students in any discipline who show academic excellence and financial need.

Mr. Kuraner earned a bachelor’s degree from the university in 1940. He practiced law in New York City and Kansas City, Mo. In 1981, he joined what is now American Century Investments as executive vice president and general counsel. He retired in 1990.

University of Scranton

Robert and Marilyn Weiss gave $1.25 million for scholarships in accounting and philosophy.

Mr. Weiss earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the university in 1968 and serves on its Board of Trustees. He has held executive posts at the Cooper Companies, a manufacturer and marketer of specialty health-care products.

Ms. Weiss studied at the university through the Scranton State General Hospital School of Nursing. She is a former head nurse at Columbia University’s Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute.

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.