Anonymous gifts donated to schools

  • Many universities have received anonymous, multi-million dollar donations
  • All of the universities that have received gifts have women presidents or chancellors
  • A portion of the gifts is required to be set aside for financial aid or scholarships

Thirteen universities have received mysterious multi-million dollar donations since March 1, with instructions not to seek out the identity of the donor or donors. The total amount of money donated thus far is more than $50 million.

The only similarity among the universities is they are all led by women. Among the schools that have received donations are Montclair State University in New Jersey, which received $5 million, the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, which received $6 million, and Michigan State University, which received $10 million-the largest of the donations thus far-and the University of North Carolina-Ashville, which received $1.5 million.

Bob Groves, Vice-President for University Advancement at Michigan State, said he had no idea the donation would be so substantial until the university received it on April 2.

He said the donation consisted of two checks, one for $7 million and the other for $3 million. The $7 million check was allocated for financial aid and scholarships for women and minorities, while the remaining $3 million was allocated for unrestricted use by MSU.

Groves said he wasn't sure why MSU received the most from the anonymous donor or donors.

"I would hope that our values align with the donor's," said Groves, who also cited the university's size of more than 40,000 undergraduates, as a possible reason. "I'm only speculating on that point though."

Groves said the university had not yet decided what to use the unrestricted $3 million for, although it would probably be lumped in with other unrestricted funds for larger projects.

"They'll be used on something that's going to make a difference for a long time," Groves said.

Steve Gilliam, a spokesman for the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, said he was stunned to hear about the donation.

"The weight of it was amazing," Gilliam said. "It was like manna from heaven."

Gilliam said the university received the donation in early March, but it waited two or three weeks until March 19 to announce that the school had received the $6 million.

While $5 million of the donation was earmarked for scholarships, Gilliam said UNCG administrators plan to use the remaining $1 million to create two distinguished professorships, along with contributions from the North Carolina Distinguished Professorship Endowment Fund and the C.D. Spangler Foundation. Gilliam said creating professorships was one of the goals of a recent fundraising campaign, which is coming to a close this year.

"It was a nice way to get into the final three or four months of the campaign," said Gilliam.

The University of North Carolina-Asheville received an anonymous donation of $1.5 million, announced March 20. Vice-Chancellor of Alumni and Development William Massey said the gift's nature of true anonymity required the university to investigate the gift's intent before accepting it.

"We did our due diligence," said Massey, who said UNCA checked with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security after receiving the gift.

Massey said that, similar to UNCG and most of the other gifts, the donation was divided into two parts. The first $1 million of the gift was allocated to create scholarships for women and minorities, and the remaining $500,000 will be used to purchase science equipment and help create professorships, Massey said.

Despite the similarities among the gifts, Massey said it was impossible to say for sure that all of these donations came from the same donor or donors.

"There is no reason to believe, or not believe, they are from the same source," Massey said.

However, Massey did commend the donor for the gift, saying that the complete anonymity of the gift deserved "profound appreciation."

"This is the most selfless type of giving," Massey said. "It's entirely to benefit someone else, without expecting any recognition for it."