Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Secter suggests that the nobility of making large donations is diminished when they're given in exchange for a naming opportunity.
"A sizable amount of total charitable donations come from a middle class conditioned to expect little more than a good feeling," he writes, adding, ""For those with deeper pockets, the potential is greater for longer-lasting gratification."
Many of today's big donors made their wealth through hedge funds and private equity and grew richer thanks to tax-reduction strategies that are often out of reach for the middle class.
Mr. Secter references the recent $100-million gift to Northwestern University's School of Law from venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and his wife, M.K. Pritzker, which renames it the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. He also mentions philanthropists Joan and Sanford Weill who recently pulled their $20-million gift from Paul Smith's College after a state judge rejected their proposal to rename the institution for Ms. Weill.