News and analysis
April 17, 2017

Gifts Roundup: U. of San Francisco Gets $10 Million to Advance Catholic Education

University of San Francisco

A $10 million gift to the University of San Francisco from alumna and former nun Joan McGrath and her husband, businessman Robert McGrath, will support training and leadership programs for Catholic-school educators.

A roundup of notable gifts compiled by The Chronicle:

University of San Francisco

Robert and Joan McGrath gave $10 million for programs at the university’s School of Education to advance Catholic schooling.

The donation includes $6 million to endow scholarships for graduate students in the new McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education, which will focus on issues management and educational issues facing Catholic schools. The remainder will fund a separate institute for students who show leadership potential and endow undergraduate scholarships to international-immersion programs.

Mr. McGrath founded McGrath RentCorp, which rents modular buildings, industrial liquid-storage tanks, and electronic measurement equipment to businesses. Ms. McGrath, who earned a master’s in theology from San Francisco University in 1969, is a former nun and Catholic-school principal. After her marriage, she took on executive roles at McGrath RentCorp.

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

John and Susan Herma promised to match up to $8 million in donations from others to support medical research and programs at the hospital’s Herma Heart Center for kids with congenital heart defects.

Mr. Herma is a retired chief operating officer of the Kohl’s department-store chain.

The couple began donating to the hospital in the 1980s after their daughter, Leigh, a patient there, died of a heart condition. They gave $10 million in 2008 and have also endowed a professorship in pediatric cardiology.

University of Vermont

The Gund family donated $6 million to establish the Gund Institute for Environment. The new center will replace and significantly enlarge the scope of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, which the family created in 2002. They promised an additional $4 million once the university raises $8 million from other donors for the institute.

The donor group includes Gordon and Llura Liggett Gund and their sons and daughters-in-law, Grant and Lara Gund and Zachary and Lindsey Gund. Both sons are Vermont alumni.

Gordon Gund leads Gund Investment Corporation, a venture-capital firm. He and Ms. Liggett Gund are prolific philanthropists and have appeared on The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50 list of top U.S. donors in 2015 for a gift to the Foundation Fighting Blindness, an organization Mr. Gund co-founded in 1971.

Northwestern University

Jeff and Laurie Ubben gave $5.5 million to the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern to establish the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science.

The program is aimed at improving understanding of global climate-system dynamics and evaluating low- and zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

Mr. Ubben is a financier and founded ValueAct Capital. He earned an MBA from the university’s Kellogg School of Management in 1987. Ms. Ubben co-founded the Bird School of Music in San Francisco. Including their latest gift, they have donated $21.6 million to the university.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Alice Lehman donated $4 million for a new research program in cellular immunotherapy at the university’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Ms. Lehman, a retired executive vice president and director of investor relations at Wachovia Corporation, lost her husband, Frank, to colon cancer. Her sister and father also succumbed to cancer. Seeking out a cure for her loved ones "convinced me that the emerging use of cellular immunotherapy was the only hope for those with metastatic cancer," she said in a news release.

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

Send an e-mail to Maria Di Mento.