Flexibility defines McDonnell’s $60 million gift

| Assignments editor

With an aim toward encouraging and developing University initiatives, John F. McDonnell and the JSM Charitable Trust have made a $60 million gift to the University. This is the third largest gift that the University has ever received, after two $100 million donations from the Danforth Foundation.

“It’s a major gift, and it will be important to the University,” Chancellor Mark Wrighton said.

The gift’s flexibility sets it apart: While previous endowments have largely been earmarked for specific programs and facilities, $48 million of McDonnell’s gift establishes an unrestricted fund named the McDonnell Academic Excellence Fund. According to Wrighton, the University has yet to make any decisive plans concerning the fund’s use, but the money could be used in a number of different ways: on construction, to fund a program, to purchase equipment or to create a professorship.

According to Wrighton, the Academic Excellence Fund will provide the University with an opportunity to make a “one-time investment,” and it will “allow the University to respond in real time.”

In other words, given the tenuous state of the endowment, this gift gives the University financial freedom that it might not otherwise have,

Wrighton cites the Executive MBA program created in conjuction with Pudong University in China as a model for the kind of “one-time investment” that this gift could help support.

According to Wrighton, this type of financial flexibility will “help us to maintain the great people, programs and facilities that make us a great university.”

This grant arrives on the heels of a series of financial difficulties. Since the endowment began to lose value in 2008, the University has halted construction plans and stalled hiring.

“Coming at a time when the economy is difficult makes the gift even more special. It gives us assurance that we are going to have resources to cover key initiatives. We need to remain vibrant,” said Wrighton.

In addition to the Academic Excellence Fund, $10 million of the gift will go toward support of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy, a network of partner institutions established in 2005 to give graduate students broad exposure to international leadership.

Another $2 million will go toward a challenge grant to encourage additional donations for the University’s “Opening Doors to the Future” scholarship campaign. . Every scholarship donation will be matched dollar for dollar with an equal donation from the challenge grant. Wrighton hopes that after the two million dollars in match money is given, another gift will allow for the creation of a new challenge grant.

“It is Mr. McDonnell’s and certainly my hope that this gift will encourage others to make similar gifts that will help to improve our academic program,” said Wrighton.

McDonnell, formerly the chairman and CEO of McDonnell Douglass Corporation, is currently the vice chair of the Board of Trustees. He was previously the Chairman.

“He has been an exceptional contributor to the University, both financially and as leader of the Board,” said Wrighton.