B-School Benefactor Dies At 81

William P. Carey, the only philanthropist whose donations led to the naming of two prominent business schools, passed away yesterday (Jan. 2) at the age of 81.

Carey, who made his fortune in real estate finance, originally had offered Johns Hopkins University $100 million to launch a new business school. At the time, Johns Hopkins was one of only three top-ranked U.S. universities without a full-time business school.

But after the university turned him down, he went to Arizona State University and awarded the school $50 million in 2002 to rename its existing B-school the W.P. Carey School of Business.

Four years later, under a new administration at Johns Hopkins, the Baltimore-based institution agreed to accept half of Carey’s original offer to launch a new business school, which it named the Carey School of Business, after his great-great-great-grandfather, James Carey of Loudon (1751-1834), a prominent Baltimore businessman of his era and a kinsman of university founder Johns Hopkins.

It was that unusual set of circumstances that led to Carey having his family name on two prominent business schools, the only business person in the world who has backed two separate schools with naming gifts. What made his gifts to those schools even more unusual is that he was not a graduate of either school. Carey had been a student at Princeton University and “cut too many classes” and “resigned before someone could ask me to leave.” He later earned a bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School in 1953.

At the time of his grant to Arizona State, his donation was the second-largest gift ever to a U.S. business school. Carey’s grandfather, John Samuel Armstrong, introduced legislation that created the university in 1886. Carey also had an honorary Doctor of Science degree from ASU.

Carey has said of his gift to the business school, “The key to future economic growth is quality education, and this school will be dedicated to producing our country’s next generation of business leaders.”

“Bill gave us the ability to dramatically advance the quality and status of the school much more rapidly than would have been possible otherwise,” said W. P. Carey School of Business Dean Robert Mittelstaedt in a statement. “He was a philanthropist who believed a primary way to advance our country was through education, and he helped a number of schools, including ours. He was also a student of economics and a great admirer of top-tier economists.”

Tributes also flowed from Johns Hopkins. “I have gotten to know Bill Carey well since I arrived at Johns Hopkins nearly three years ago,” university President Ronald J. Daniels said in a statement. “I discussed with him often his vision for lifting the study of business at Johns Hopkins to a prominence commensurate with our strength in so many other disciplines. With his endowment of our undergraduate program in entrepreneurship and management, and then the establishment of the Carey Business School in 2007, he made the investments that have launched Johns Hopkins towards realizing that aspiration.

“Bill Carey saw clearly the potential impact of a Johns Hopkins business school not only on the university, but also on Baltimore and Maryland. The depth of his devotion to our city and state was legendary. He demonstrated that devotion in ways that will be felt here for many, many years to come.”

Phillip H. Phan, the interim dean of the business school, said in a letter to faculty, staff, and students, “The vital work that all of us do here … would not be possible without the generosity and the transformative vision of Mr. Carey. To continue building on that vision will be the most fitting tribute we can offer.”

Carey died at Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Fla., following complications from a heart attack.

The New York-based firm he founded under his name in 1973 provides sale-leaseback and other forms of real estate financing and manages a global investment portfolio of about $11.8 billion. Based in New York, it owns almost 1,000 commercial and industrial properties in North America, Europe and Asia.  “Bill was unwavering in his devotion to our shareholders, and he was especially proud that we have been able to provide increasing income to them, while providing our tenant companies with the capital that allowed them to grow their business and prosper,” CEO Trevor P. Bond said in the statement.

Besides the $100 million he gave to the two business schools, last April he pledged $30 million to the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, which he hoped would lead to a joint law-business degree offered by Maryland and Johns Hopkins.

“I don’t believe in having my family be rich,” he told the New York Times in April. “They don’t need a lot of fancy cars to drive around. My goal is to make the foundation a billion, and then after it’s a billion, I might be old enough to think about passing on.”