Inside Yale biz school's stocking: $50 million donation

December 20, 2010: 3:51 PM ET

Just in time for the holidays, Yale's School of Management received a $50 million donation from Ned Evans, former chairman of Macmillan Inc., capping off a banner year for donations to elite business schools.

By John A. Byrne, contributor

(poetsandquants.com) -- Santa Claus came early to Yale's School of Management this year.

The former chairman of publishing house Macmillan Inc. pledged a $50 million gift to Yale's School of Management to help foot the bill for a new state-of-the-art B-school campus, Yale announced today. It is the largest single gift in the school's history and one of the largest ever to a business school.

A rendering of the entrance to Yale School of Management's future campus.

What makes the gift somewhat unusual is that Ned Evans, now a private investor who had been chairman and CEO of Macmillan from 1979 to 1989, never graduated from the School of Management. He is a member of the Yale College Class of 1964. For his generosity, Yale will name the new 230,000 square foot home for SOM the Edward P. Evans Hall.

The gift is yet another piece of positive news for the School of Management, which revised a new curriculum in 2006 and laid plans for the move into a new campus to be located at the northern gateway to the university campus. These changes set the stage for the arrival of a new dean, "Ted" Snyder, who is coming off a major turnaround of the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.

In a recent interview with the Yale Daily News, Snyder said, "This particular school at this particular juncture has a great opportunity that no other school has, and that is to leverage an eminent university at a time when that is what is really needed."

Snyder said he will focus on strengthening SOM's faculty, student quality and reputation, as well as integrating the school into the rest of the Yale community. Hiring, developing and retaining faculty will be his primary priorities.

The new 4.25 acre business school campus, under construction on Whitney Avenue, will house state-of-the-art classrooms, faculty offices, academic centers, and student and meeting spaces organized around a welcoming courtyard. The new campus will incorporate the latest in "green construction" materials and practices.

"I am delighted to make this gift that will bring together the Yale School of Management on a beautiful new campus, enlarge its student body, and propel it to the highest level in the 21st century," Evans said in a statement.

He made a significant gift in 1991 to support the renovation and expansion of the Yale University Press building, which was recognized with the naming of the Evans Wing. He has also contributed generously to the renovation of the residential colleges.

Evans' $50 million gift is just one of many very large commitments made to business schools this year. Only last month, investor Wilbur L. Ross, a 1959 alum of Yale College, pledged $10 million toward the library in the new building.

In October, India's Tata Group and its philanthropic interests gave Harvard Business School $50 million, the largest gift HBS has ever received from an international donor in the school's 102-year history. Only a couple of weeks earlier in October, Henry Kravis of KKR (KKR) made a $100 million commitment to Columbia Business School, a pledge thought to be the third largest gift ever handed over to a business school.

A record was set two years ago when David Booth gave $300 million to the B-school at the University of Chicago, which renamed the place the Booth School of Business. Booth, a 1971 Chicago MBA, built his investment firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors on principles he learned from Eugene Fama at the school. Snyder was dean at Chicago when that gift was made.

Before Booth's gift, the largest gift to a business school was $105 million, given to Stanford University's Graduate School of Business in 2006 by Philip H. Knight, founder and chairman of Nike (NKE).

Other large gifts to business schools include $100 million to the University of Michigan in 2004 from Stephen M. Ross, $85 million to the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2007 from a combined partnership of 13 alumni, and $60 million to the Darden School at the University of Virginia from Frank Batten Sr., retired chairman and chief executive of Landmark Communications.

The current dean at Yale's School of Managment, Sharon Oster, said in a statement: "I and the entire Yale SOM community are very grateful for this extraordinary gift, a gift which will greatly facilitate the construction of our spectacular new building. Over the years, we have found many Yale College alumni for whom our mission of educating leaders for business and society has had great resonance. This current gift, from Ned Evans, a distinguished Yale alumnus, is another example of this close connection between Yale College and its professional schools and will enable SOM to expand its influence in the world of scholarship and practice and further contribute to the Yale University community."

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John A. Byrne
John A. Byrne
Contributor , Fortune

John A. Byrne is chairman and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media Inc., a digital media startup that is launching a network of websites for the global business community, including PoetsandQuants.com, a website for analysis, news, and features on prestige MBAs and the best business education in the world. Byrne was until recently executive editor and editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com. Byrne is the author or co-author of eight books on business, leadership, and management, including two national bestsellers.

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