Baylor University Receives Anonymous $200 Million Gift

From the Waco Trib today, looks like Baylor has a new fan.  Nice PR by the Baylor team to leak this out after the basketball incident earlier today, see video below if you do not know what I am talking about.

Any guesses on who the donor is?

Baylor University receives anonymous $200 million gift

By Tim Woods Tribune-Herald staff writer

Thursday March 4, 2010

Baylor University has received an estate gift that is the largest donation in the school’s history by a wide margin. It is the second-largest gift to a Texas university.

The gift, estimated at $200 million, is to be directed toward medical research in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Social Work and other university programs.

The donor asked to remain anonymous, and Baylor officials honored that request Wednesday.

According to a list compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education of the largest private gifts to higher education institutions since 1967, the $200 million windfall is second in Texas only to a $232 million gift to the University of Texas at Austin, given by John A. “Jack” Johnson in 2002.

The money will be given to Baylor when the donor, a Baylor graduate, dies, Dennis Prescott, the school’s vice president for university development, said. At that point, a foundation will be created to house the funds.

Prescott said the school’s largest previous gift was $22 million from the estate of Alwin O. Highers Jr.

Baylor officials would not say whether the recent hiring of Ken Starr, currently dean of Pepperdine Law School, as president had anything to do with the gift.

Interim President David Garland said, “We signed the agreement (for the gift) last fall.” Starr was approached by retired Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Thomas Phillips in November about the school’s presidency.

Former Baylor regent Chairman and Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane, who was named regent emeritus at the Baylor Board of Regents’ meeting last month, recently said he and other donors have been inclined to hold off on giving until they saw stability at the school’s top leadership position.

“All the turmoil in the leadership in the past 10 years (at Baylor), it’s just a proven fact that people who are going to give to a university are not going to give until they see a stable, consistent leadership and can buy into what the university wants to become,” McLane said. “And the president is the person who does that.”

‘An endorsement’

Regardless of the impetus for the donation, Baylor officials say they hope it creates momentum among their donor base, even attracting new donors.

“As much as we’re blessed and grateful for this game-changer gift, we have reason to hope that it will beget significant other philanthropy to Baylor,” regent Chairman Dary Stone said.

“It’s no different than someone seeing Warren Buffett buying up 30 percent of the shares of a company,” he added. “It’s an endorsement of the mission of Baylor and an affirmation of what Baylor’s all about. . . . So, that gives other people confidence to invest, as well. It’s incredibly synergistic.”


Diana Garland, dean of Baylor’s School of Social Work, could hardly describe the possible benefits the donation can bring to her program.

“It’s almost unimaginable what this can do,” she said. “Social work is not a profession where students are going to make millions, so the opportunity of endowing scholarships to make it possible for students who feel called to some of the most difficult work in the world to come here and get an education is thrilling.”

Lee Nordt, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there is “no detailed plan on (how the money will be spent) yet.”

However, he pointed to seven or eight departments in the College of Arts and Sciences that are conducting research related to health sciences and health care advances.

For example, chemistry professor Kevin Pinney has been working for years to develop “vascular disrupting agents,” which cut off blood flow to tumors, thereby killing them.

Nordt said the effect of the donation will be felt from the top to the bottom of the college, though. The money will enable the college to hire additional accomplished faculty, who will bring new and exciting research opportunities to both graduate and undergraduate students, Nordt said.

Additional research faculty equates to additional research funding, as well, Nordt said, from sources such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Nordt said he was unsure, at this early stage, how the donation might affect work done at the Central Texas Research and Technology park, a Baylor-driven research park slated to open in 2012.

‘A world of good’

Nordt said about one-third of Baylor’s incoming freshmen enter some sort of pre-health track.

“So, anything we can do to keep on the cutting edge and enhancing what we’re already doing in the sciences, particularly related to pre-health, is going to do a world of good,” Nordt said.

Stone, effusive in his gratitude for the gift, said he looks forward to more of the same, even if not of the same magnitude, simply because of what Baylor stands for.

“Baylor is not merely an alma mater to a lot of people, but it really, truly is a mission and a cause,” Stone said.

“What we do at Baylor is turn out kids who go out and make the world better, and that touches sections of people’s hearts above and beyond just a nostalgic alma mater piece.

“When you invest in Baylor, you’re investing in making the world better, and that’s a pretty strong calling.”


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