News and analysis
October 31, 2016

Gifts Roundup: Pro-Sports Owners and NBA Star Boost Colleges With Big Donations

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Brooklyn Nets point guard Jeremy Lin donated $1 million to his alma mater, Harvard University, to support student financial aid and renovations to the campus arena.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

San Diego State University

Ron Fowler, executive chairman and co-owner of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres, and his wife, Alexis, pledged $25 million to support four programs in the College of Business Administration, which will be named for them.

The money will go toward scholarships, professorships, a new lecture series, and study-abroad programs. The Fowlers stipulated that the university must raise an additional $25 million to receive all of their gift.

Ms. Fowler is an accountant who earned a master’s degree from the university in 1993. She previously served as an adjunct professor there, teaching undergraduate classes in financial and managerial accounting.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Eric Smidt and his wife, Susan, pledged $25 million to support the museum's growth and plans for a new building to house its permanent collection.

Mr. Smidt is the longtime president of national retail chain Harbor Freight Tools. He is a Los Angeles native and a member of the museum's board. The gift advances the institution's campaign to raise $475 million in private support for a new building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and scheduled to start construction in 2018.

Michigan State University

Dan and Jennifer Gilbert donated $15 million through their foundation to renovate and add onto a sports arena, endow scholarships, and support the university’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.

Mr. Gilbert founded mortgage lender Quicken Loans and is the majority owner of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Ms. Gilbert founded a number of businesses, including Amber Engine, a technology firm that offers data solutions for home-furnishings and interior-design companies.

The Gilberts both graduated from Michigan State, Mr. Gilbert from the College of Communication Arts & Sciences and Ms. Gilbert from the former College of Human Ecology.

University of Michigan Health System

Kenneth and Frances Eisenberg gave $10.75 million to the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Among other things, the money will expand research into the causes of depression and potential new treatments and endow a professorship, future research programs, and awards for early-career research and effective leadership in the field.

Mr. Eisenberg leads Kenwal Steel Corporation, a family business he took over in the 1960s. He and his wife earned bachelor’s degrees from Michigan in 1964, his from the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, hers from the School of Education.

Northwestern University

Scott Kapnick and his family committed $5 million through their foundation to establish the Harvey Kapnick Center for Business Institutions at the university’s Weinberg College for Arts and Sciences and to endow a professorship.

Mr. Kapnick is chief executive of Highbridge Capital Management, a global alternative-investment manager. His late father, Harvey Kapnick, headed accounting the firm Arthur Andersen in the 1970s and was a Northwestern life trustee.

University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Evelyn Hess left $2 million to endow a professorship focused on the study of lupus at the college’s Division of Immunology, Allergy, and Rheumatology.

Dr. Hess, who died late last year, was an internationally known expert in lupus and a professor at the medical school. She founded the immunology, allergy, and rheumatology division in 1969 and served as its director for 31 years.

Harvard University

Jeremy Lin, a professional basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets, gave $1 million for undergraduate financial aid and renovations to the university’s basketball arena.

Mr. Lin graduated from Harvard with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 2010. He played four years for the university’s basketball team and served as team captain in his senior year.

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.