News and analysis
April 24, 2017

Gifts Roundup: T. Denny Sanford Gives $28 Million to Advance Fundraising and Education

John Gastaldo

National University Chancellor Michael Cunningham (left) and billionaire banker T. Denny Sanford shake on the philanthropist’s $28 million gift to boost three research programs he established at the San Diego institution.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

Pennsylvania State University

Television producer and writer Donald Bellisario pledged $30 million to establish the Donald P. Bellisario Media Center and support students and faculty at the university’s College of Communications, which was renamed for the donor.

A portion of the money will support scholarships for communications students, with first preference given to undergraduates who are veterans, active-duty service members, reservists, or National Guard members.

Mr. Bellisario created the TV series Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, Jag, and NCIS, among others. He enrolled at Penn State in 1953, left to serve for four years in the Marines, then returned and earned a journalism degree in 1961. He went on to a career in advertising before making the leap to television in the 1970s. He gave the university $1 million in 2006 to endow the Donald P. Bellisario Trustee Scholarship.

National University

T. Denny Sanford pledged $28 million to expand three Sanford Education Programs at the San Diego institution, including one devoted to training for nonprofit fundraisers.

Sanford Inspire, Sanford Harmony, and the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy are respectively aimed at creating research-based solutions to improve teaching, the emotional development of young children, and nonprofit fundraising.

Mr. Sanford, a billionaire banker from South Dakota, helped to start the programs with a $1 million donation in 2013 and helped raise $20 million for them from an anonymous donor in 2015. He has given approximately $1 billion to charity and appeared on The Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 list of the most generous U.S. donors seven times, most recently for his giving in 2014.

Colby College

Andrew Davis and his family gave $25 million through their foundation to create DavisConnects, a wide-ranging program that will provide the money for every student to spend time abroad.

Mr. Davis is president of Davis Selected Advisers and manages the financial firm’s real-estate fund. He studied economics at Colby and graduated in 1985. He and his family previously gave $10 million to build the Waterville, Me., campus’s Davis Science Center, and he has established two scholarship funds at the college.

Colby says the gift makes it the first leading liberal-arts college to guarantee an international experience to all students. Under DavisConnects, students will begin designing a study-abroad program early in their first year as part of a road map of global, research, and other experiences to complement their course work.

Duke University

Financier David Rubenstein gave $20 million  to his alma meter to endow scholarships for exceptional first-generation, low-income students. The program covers all of students' costs and will be named the David M. Rubenstein Scholars Program.

Mr. Rubenstein, a billionaire, is a co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm. He has given extensively to Duke and other nonprofit institutions over the years and appears regularly in The Chronicle’s annual Philanthropy 50 report of the most generous donors.

College of William & Mary

Hunter Smith donated $15 million to expand and renovate the college’s historic Alumni House, adding approximately 35,000 square feet to the nearly 170-year-old building.

Ms. Smith graduated from William & Mary in 1951. She is the widow of Carl Smith, who founded the coal and natural-gas company Amvest.

Work on Alumni House is expected to begin in spring 2018 and end in fall 2019.

Auburn University

Lawyer and businessman James (Jimmy) Rane pledged $12 million to establish a new culinary-science facility, which will be named the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center in honor of the donor’s parents.

The elder Ranes owned several restaurants, retail stores, and hotel franchises. Jimmy Rane founded Great Southern Wood Preserving, a manufacturer of pressure-treated pine, and served as a district judge in Henry County, Ala., in the 1970s.

He graduated from Auburn in 1968 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and currently serves on the university’s Board of Trustees.

Rice University

Rich and Nancy Kinder gave $10.7 million through their foundation to the university’s Houston Education Research Consortium to expand its work to additional school districts throughout the greater Houston area.

The consortium is a research partnership between Rice and the Houston Independent School District that seeks to close socioeconomic gaps in educational achievement and attainment.

Mr. Kinder is co-founder and chairman of Kinder Morgan, an energy company headquartered in Houston. The Kinders have given extensively to nonprofits in the Houston area and appeared in The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50 report several years ago.

Butler University

Winstan (Bud) Sellick and his wife, Jacqueline, left $9.4 million to support Butler Athletics, the Lacy School of Business, and other programs.

The Sellicks, who owned two insurance agencies and a commercial-real-estate business, had close personal and family ties to the university.

Mr. Sellick, who died in 2015, graduated from Butler in 1947. His father was an economics professor at the university and also served as its treasurer. One of Bud Sellick’s aunts was assistant registrar and another was a university librarian.

Ms. Sellick was a 1944 Butler graduate. She died in 2012.

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