Big Gift, Big Plans In Hawai’i

The view from the dorms on the campus of the University of Hawai’i

The University of Hawai’i-Mānoa is pretty much off the radar when it comes to business education. The school’s full-time MBA program is not ranked on any of the five most influential lists published by U.S. News, The Financial Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, or Forbes, and the undergraduate program at the Shidler College of Business fails to make U.S. News’ Top 100 ranking, coming in at 109th, tied with 18 other programs.

Now, flush with cash from a recent huge gift, the Shidler College is looking to make a splash, and perhaps gain enough credibility to join the conversation about relevant business programs.

The college announced Oct. 4 that alumnus Jay H. Shidler has donated $117 million in cash and real estate ground leases soon after delivering the final installment of the $111 million gift he announced in 2014. In total, Shidler, a real estate investor and philanthropist, has given $228 million to the school in cash and land leases that some estimate will someday be worth billions — easily the largest individual donation in the university’s 110-year history, and the second-largest known gift to any U.S. business school at a public university after the $250 million donated to Michigan’s Ross School of Business by namesake Steven Ross. (Chicago’s Booth School of Business is the recipient of the largest-ever donation to a business school, $300 million from David Booth, in 2008; Booth this month received another $75 million from an alumni couple. See a complete list below of the biggest gifts to B-schools.)


Jay Shidler. Courtesy photo

In 2014, Shidler, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Hawai’i in 1968, committed $100 million — later increased to $111 million — for scholarships, professorship endowments, improvements to both the undergraduate and graduate programs, and other “reputation-building” enhancements. The latest $117 million gift will go toward improvements and expansion facilitated by Shidler’s earlier donations, the university announced, which came in the form of cash and marketable securities as well as interest on income from land “underlying a number of significant office buildings in the central business districts” of Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Tampa, Nashville, Louisville, and other cities. The Shidler Group, based in Honolulu, has acquired thousands of commercial properties in 40 states and Canada over the past 40 years; with the gifts, the Shidler College will benefit from rising rent payments on many high-value properties “over a period of between 65 and 99 years,” the university said.

Long before that, school officials hint, Shidler’s gift may allow the business school to achieve something even more tantalizing: a level of funding that could be used to make the college tuition-free.

“Jay’s extremely generous gifts have already had a transformational impact on the college’s physical structure and academic programs,” Vance Roley, dean of the college since 2005, said in a statement. “While the size and scope of the gift is ambitious, Jay’s commitment to the larger Hawai’i community, as well as his pride as an alumnus of the school, have been evident for quite some time. We are incredibly excited for the future of the college.”


Shidler College of Business currently offers an undergraduate International Business major or Business minor, as well as a Global MBA, Master of Accounting, and a Juris Doctor/MBA. Since the money from its namesake starting pouring in three years ago, the number of scholarships awarded to students has increased significantly, from 161 to 350 this year, while the college has also funded undergraduate and graduate teams to compete in national and international business competitions and hired staff to support internship and job placement efforts.

Just two years ago, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business named Shidler one of the world’s 100 most influential leaders in making an impact on business education, as well as one of the 50 most generous alumni donors. He and the B-school that bears his name hope his generosity put Hawai’i-Manoa on the business education map.

“I’m the first person in my immediate family to receive a college degree, so my being a University of Hawai’i grad was a big deal for my mom and dad,” Shidler said in a written statement.As an Army brat, my four years at U.H. were the longest I’d lived anywhere. That stability made the experience significant, and the experience made Hawai’i my home.

“I credit the guidance of my professors and strong connections with classmates at the college with much of my success in the business world. The more students who have access to such an education, the better the business world, and ultimately, our community become. With a strong emphasis on international and Asia-Pacific studies, and a rigorous curriculum, I am looking forward to the next generation of University of Hawai’i alumni contributing greatly to the international community in both a business and personal capacity.”