Meet SOM’s Most Generous Benefactor

PepsiCo Chairman & CEO Indra Nooyi became the most generous lifetime benefactor in the history of the Yale School of Management

PepsiCo Chairman & CEO Indra Nooyi became the most generous lifetime benefactor in the history of the Yale School of Management

Indra Nooyi recalls the day she saw a magazine advertisement for the Yale School of Management while still living in India in the late 1970s shortly after the school was founded in 1975. She liked the fact that the school’s founding dean, investment banking pioneer William Donaldson, was not an academic but had an industry background. She applied, was accepted with financial aid, but was surprised that her parents agreed to allow her to go. “It was unheard of for a good, conservative, south Indian Brahmin girl to do this,” she once told a reporter. “It would make her an absolutely unmarriageable commodity after that.”

It was a difficult experience. Once the 22-year-old arrived on campus in 1978, for what was only the third cohort at SOM, she was virtually flat broke. She struggled through her entire first year as a graduate student when SOM granted a master’s degree in public and private management (MPPM) rather than an MBA. “Those were very tough times,” she once recalled. “At the end of the month, if I saved $5. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was totally and completely broke. I had no money to buy clothes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I worked the front desk of Hadley Hall from midnight to 5 a.m. at $3.35 an hour, the minimum wage. That money was the grocery money for the week.”

Today (Jan. 12), her alma mater announced that Nooyi, for the past ten years CEO of PepsiCo, Inc., has become the most generous graduate of SOM in terms of lifetime giving to the school. Nooyi, who graduated from SOM in 1980, also became the first woman to endow the deanship at a top business school, making what the school called “a landmark gift.” As part of a long record of support for the school, Nooyi has previously made substantial contributions to the construction of Edward P. Evans Hall, including gifts to name the Nooyi Classroom and the Isaacson Classroom in memory of Professor Larry Isaacson. The size of this latest donation was not disclosed nor was the total amount of her giving to the school.


Clearly, however, her Yale degree, which helped her land a job at Boston Consulting Group, was a major turning point. “My experience at the Yale School of Management forever altered the course of my life,” said Nooyi in a statement. “My gift to this wonderful institution pales in comparison with the gift that Yale gave me—the fundamental understanding that leadership requires an expansive worldview and a deep appreciation of the many points of intersection between business and society. Business issues are

never just business issues, and my most ardent hope is that this endowment will teach future

generations of leaders that the most successful companies of tomorrow will do more than make

money. They will make a difference and create shareholder value by improving the quality of life

in every market in which they operate.”

Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder, recently named Dean of the Year by Poets&Quants, is the inaugural Indra K. Nooyi Dean. He has led SOM since 2011 and was recently appointed to a second five-year term as dean. “Indra Nooyi has become a leading voice among Fortune 500 CEOs in no small part

because of her willingness to take a stand on the broader purpose of the corporation, while

delivering top-echelon performance,” said Snyder in a statement. “Her generous support will enable us to pursue new opportunities and initiatives, in keeping with the spirit of innovation that has always been a hallmark of Yale SOM. Having the deanship named in her honor communicates to the world the school’s model of purposeful and broadminded leadership.”

Nooyi has served as chief executive officer of PepsiCo since 2006, and chairman since 2007. She

is the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, the company’s promise to deliver top-tier

financial performance over the long term by integrating sustainability into its business strategy

and leaving a positive imprint on society. This vision has led PepsiCo to diversify its product

portfolio to meet changing consumer needs. Today, less than 25% of PepsiCo’s global

revenue is derived from carbonated soft drinks and approximately 20% comes from the

company’s nutrition businesses. Under her leadership, PepsiCo has also been an industry leader

in promoting environmental sustainability. For example, since 2006, the company has reduced its

operational water use by 23 percent and improved the energy efficiency of its operations by 16


Before joining PepsiCo in 1994, Nooyi worked in senior roles at Asea Brown Boveri, Motorola,

and BCG. Nooyi serves as a member of the boards of U.S.-China Business Council, U.S.-India Business Council, the Consumer Goods Forum, Catalyst, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Tsinghua University. She is a past member of the Yale Corporation, the top governing board and policy-making body for the university. She is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and was appointed to the U.S.-India CEO Forum by President Obama.


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