Cornell’s College Of Business Gets $150 Million Naming Gift

H. Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of consumer products giant SC Johnson, has pledged $150 million to the newly named SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University

H. Fisk Johnson has pledged $150 million to Cornell University’s College of Business in what is one of the largest gifts ever given to a business school. The historic gift matches the $150 million given to Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business by Robert and Dorothy King in 2011 and is only exceeded by David Booth’s $300 million naming gift in 2008 for the business school at the University of Chicago. Stephen Ross has given the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business $200 million in two separate gifts in 2004 and 2013 (see table on largest gifts to business schools).

Cornell described the commitment as the the largest single gift to the university’s Ithaca, New York, campus and the second-largest naming gift ever to a business school. The pledge comes less than a year after the university merged a trio of its professional schools — the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management — into a College of Business which will now be known as the SC Johnson College of Business.

The 59-year-old Fisk Johnson, the fifth generation of his family to lead privately-held consumer products giant SC Johnson & Son, Inc., as chairman and CEO, knows Cornell well. The great-great-grandson of company founder Samuel Curtis Johnson, he has five degrees from the university, including an MBA in 1984 from the school named after the company’s founder. “Cornell University has been a part of my family for more than 120 years,” he said in a statement. “I hope this gift will serve as a significant catalyst to help grow the reach and impact of Cornell’s College of Business. The goal is to strengthen the College of Business overall, while enhancing its three individual schools and the qualities that make each exceptional.”


SC Johnson College of Business Dean Soumitra Dutta

The gift is a coup for Dean Soumitra Dutta, who joined the school nearly five years ago from INSEAD where he had been a professor. Dutta had already raised $200 million, broke ground on a new six-story building, revamped the school’s full-time MBA program, launched a one-year tech MBA in New York City along with a dual-degree program with Tsinghua University in China, and recruited some 25 faculty members.

It is also a sorely needed gift for a business school with major ambitions. Next July, the Johnson School will have a permanent home in New York, dedicated space on Cornell’s new campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Within five years, Dutta expects to increase the size of his New York faculty to 18 from the current half dozen who now teach out of temporary quarters in Google’s New York building.

Dutta envisions as many as a quarter of the full-time MBA students on the main Ithaca campus spending up to six months in its New York facilities. Also next July, the school expects to double the physical footprint of the Johnson School in Ithaca with the opening of the new 76,000-square-foot Breazzano Family for Business Education building, the result of a $25 million gift from David Breazzano, a 1980 alum and co-founder and president of DDJ Capital Management.


The school said that two-thirds of the gift, $100 million, will be used to create a permanent endowment “to support the college’s highest ambitions. In the near term, the endowment will provide flexibility for faculty recruitment and retention in Ithaca and New York City; increase the college’s competitiveness for top students through expanded scholarship resources; and develop and expand programs in and outside of Ithaca. These funds will enable new interdisciplinary research initiatives in areas that leverage and enhance the college’s and Cornell’s research strengths – particularly in the areas of sustainability and technology.”

The contribution to endowment is especially needed. A recent analysis of endowments by Poets&Quants found Cornell’s Johnson School trailing 22 other business schools, including Babson College, Washington University’s Olin School of Business, and even Bentley College (see America’s Wealthiest Business Schools).  The Johnson endowment of $208 million is a mere fraction of many of the school’s peers, including leader Harvard Business School ($3.3 billion), Stanford’s GSB ($1.4 billion), Wharton ($1.3 billion), Yale School of Management ($743 million), and Columbia Business School ($680 million).

The school said that one new initiative the Johnson gift will support is the SC Johnson Scholars program, which will benefit a cohort of undergraduates in Dyson and the School of Hotel Administration. The program will create academic and experiential opportunities that enhance general coursework, including access to SC Johnson-sponsored immersion programs, mentoring and workshops; domestic and international internships; and shadowing opportunities.


The remaining $50 million of the gift will be used as a current-use challenge grant to leverage philanthropic support from others on a 1:3 basis, allowing the college to raise an additional $150 million in endowment and bring the total potential impact of the gift to $300 million. The challenge will have a special focus on faculty and student support, while also promoting innovative programs. Endowment gifts for the college’s three schools or the college broadly will be eligible for the challenge.

“This extraordinary gift will further that goal by creating more diverse and rigorous learning and research opportunities for both faculty and students across the college’s three accredited business programs,” said Dean Dutta in a statement.“It also will help enhance the unique characteristics and strengths of each and support our mission to realize the full potential of Cornell’s business programs.”

Cornell said it will hold a celebration of the gift on campus on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 11:30 a.m. in Statler Auditorium. Johnson is expected to attend the event with Cornell Interim President Hunter Rawlings, Dean Dutta and President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes. The event will be live-streamed on CornellCast.

  • daffy

    Agree with above – except the Princeton comment – few people outside of the US have heard of Princeton.

  • Been There

    Don’t engage. It is not worth it. No rational conversation results – only frustration!

  • Uh….

    🙂 Please check your numbers again….. highest gmat -> stanford/wharton; highest salaries -> H/S/W/B/K/S+few all better than SOM’s #; highest prestige -> go to collegeconfidential.. we are talking about MBA… best international brand -> I’m international myself and Yale is truly up there but harvard, standford, mit & princeton beat Yale.. but you are correct about Chicago Booth outside US.

  • somsquared

    highest GMAT, highest salaries, highest prestige, best international brand – I know several international students who said parents would not pay for their MBA unless Yale or Harvard – many have never heard of Chicago Booth oustide US

  • Uh….

    Does not mean that Yale SOM is better than Booth thou… their class profiles are close or aligned… with regards to employment don’t even bother comparing those two… they are in different league. Just out of curiosity, why so much love for Yale SOM? Nothing wrong with it and it’s mostly based on personal fit/preference, but Yale is the last school I would attend among ivies or top 10 (not even sure SOM is real top 10 yet..)

  • somsquared

    Yale SOM has better profile than Booth though..

  • Uh….

    Not sure where ur # is coming from… admit rates do NOT tell you 100% of the story since the applicant pool is different. Look at their class profile, you will see Booth’s and Kellogg’s have better profile than many ivies. And from my experience, I do find out getting into Booth is actually harder than getting into some of the ivies as I got reject from Booth and accepted/waitlisted by other ivies…

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  • somsquared

    SOM will be #1 or #2 – Cornell #15-#25

  • Really……

    Yet another contribution to the haves instead of the have nots! This donation would have impacted more students at a state university, or at least a school with more students. Cornell will likely buy better GMAT scores instead of reducing tuition or increasing enrollment.

  • Tiberius

    I agree that admission selectivity is certainly an important criteria for selecting a business school and helping to define its prestige, but it appears that you are putting near 100% stock in that measure alone? I believe that job placement, ROI, admissions stats, faculty and alumni strength, and “Fit” are all the criteria – and in that order. I “personally” could care very little if Yale has a higher GMAT score or lower admit rate if I thought my job prospects at Booth or Kellogg were better (which I believe would be the case for me personally). thanks

  • smartest

    hog wosh
    Then Please explain why its much easier to get into Kellogg or Booth than CBS or Yale SOM or Tuck even today
    Look at admit rates
    HARD DATA please

    Go by data – not your random bias

  • Tornado Flyers

    Generally agree with your predictions and that it will take a couple of years. I would move Yale SOM onto the same 4th Tier. They have earned it and show Cornell that making such a move is fully possible. I would also blend the 5th and 6th tiers together. All are outstanding programs!

  • MBAPrediction

    Congrats to Cornell’s SC Johnson College of Business on this gigantic gift

    I predict it will become top 10 and the ranking will eventually become

    1. Harvard/Stanford
    2. Wharton/Booth
    3. Kellogg/MIT
    4. Columbia/Cornell/Haas/Tuck
    5. Ross/Fuqua/Darden/SOM
    6. Anderson/Stern

  • MBAhype

    Haha I love SOM too, but top5 is probably pushing it too far! They have great brand power and are definitely moving up in rankings. But breaking top5 is no joke! They’re going to have to do better with employment stats and engage more alumni to break top5. That could take a while; not impossible but not that fast either.

  • Mba19

    I don’t think just being Ivy is enough to unseat the mba powerhouses like Stanford/ Booth. MIT and Kellogg tho, don’t have as much immunity to public perception for business education. Doubt they’d be pushed out of top10 in the next 2-3 years or so. But if they don’t reinvent their programs, they’re likely to take a hit from rising schools like Yale or Cornell. These schools clearly have potential to move up with investments in new programs/ collaborations which can boost employment records, appeal to new applicants and hence improve rankings.

  • GrandeRojo

    You are focusing on past/current data, which is not relevant to the future that people are looking towards and that these investments are about for the BSchool at Cornell. What you say makes perfect sense if you want to look backwards but this is really about looking ahead. Not many (if any) bschools can match what Cornell has put together in the past couple of years. Dividends will begin to pay off in the next couple of years I believe.

  • herald

    what about Stanford and MIT? Both not ivies! will they sink too with Chicago Booth and NW Kellogg? !!

  • WaitingonBigRed

    The donation is a big plus for Cornell overall, and especially Business at Cornell….But it’s hard to say if it will push Johnson to become a core top 10 program. So far, the various expansion plans haven’t really impacted the full time program, other than to redirect the administration’s focus and energy. So, if Cornell really wants to be a top 10 program, it needs to figure out a way to improve the student experience for every single full time MBA student, not just the small handful that take a semester at Cornell Tech or do a duel degree….so far Johnson has failed at that.

    A quick look at recent student surveys from business week shows full time students at Johnson aren’t satisfied with their experience. Happy students = happy alums = high donations = hiring MBAs.

  • global

    The Ivies will continue to dominate – Tuck, Yale, Columbia ,Wharton, Cornell, Harvard and NYC tech boom will help more. The losers will be Kellogg and Booth
    Already look at Admit rates for booth and kellogg ( much higher than all the ivies . Admit rates are higher than even lower ranked Yale and Tuck)
    Globally outside business, ivies are far more well known. Everyone nows Cornell engineering, Yale and Columbia Law and Penn Medicine
    Northwerstern and and UChicago will be the losers and already admit rates reflect that

  • GoNe

    Then we disagree but respectfully. Let’s watch over the next couple of years. I believe Cornell will see some strong movement like Yale did over the next few years to come. Yale is a terrific model and benchmark for Cornell to look to. Cheers!

  • somsquared

    doubtful – their gmat average is still stuck at 700. Schools like SOM will dominate top 5 Cornell will be stuck at 15-16

  • GoNe

    A great piece of news and continuing catalyst for Cornell’s move upwards! Ivy League globally recognized brand, new NYC campus, combined business school, revamped curriculum, strong placement trends, and now historically large naming gift. Cornell will soon begin to push to a top 10 player instead of a top 15 to 20 player. Great stuff imo