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Wharton Lands Largest Gift: $50 Million

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

It’s no secret that tenured business school faculty are expensive. At many of the elite schools, it is not uncommon to have full professors who make close to half a million dollars a year.

So the Wharton School has to be especially glad to announce today (Oct. 2) the largest single gift ever given to the school, a $50 million pledge to attract and retain top faculty and support the University of Pennsylvania’s economic policy analysis program. The pledge is part of the largest fundraising campaign ever launched by Wharton, in the aftermath of a similar effort at Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria that has since topped $1 billion and now has a goal of $1.3 billion by year end.

The gift helped prompt Wharton to increase its More Than Ever fundraising campaign goal from $850 million to $1 billion. As of today, Wharton said it has raised $679,976,855 since the 2013 start of its “More Than Ever’ campaign, 68% of its goal, in what has largely been the quiet phase of the effort. The campaign, which went public in April of this year, ends in 2021. Wharton’s previous fundraising effort, which ran from July of 2005 to December of 2012, raised $606.8 million.


Given the massive size of funds Wharton is seeking to raise, how the school will spend the money is surprisingly vague. The school says the donations will “advance every aspect of Wharton’s mission and operation, with investment in the latest instructional technology, cutting-edge student programming, influential faculty research, updated facilities that foster student learning, lifelong learning and career services for alumni, and so much more.”

If successful, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett will be among only three business deans to raise $1 billion or more for their schools. Columbia Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard also has raised more than $1 billion, including two of the largest gifts ever pledged to a business school, $125 million from Henry Kravis, co-founder and co-CEO of the leveraged buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and $100 million from Ronald Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings.

Chicago Booth also has been in a major capital campaign as part of a university-wide effort to raise $5 billion. Booth expects to pass its revised goal of $950 million, up from an initial $850 million, this month, eight months before the June, 2019 end of the fundraising initiative.


Marc Rowan

The largest single gift to a business school came from David Booth to the University of Chicago’s business school in 1997. That $300 million was given as a dividend stream from Booth’s investment management firm, Dimensional Fund Advisors, that has far exceeded the initial value of the gift.

Wharton’s $50 million gift comes from Marc and Carolyn Rowan, two Wharton alums. Co-founder and senior managing director of one of the nation’s largest private equity firms, Apollo Global Management, Marc graduated summa cum laude from Wharton with a BS in 1984 and an MBA in finance.. His wife, Carolyn, graduated from Wharton with an MBA in 1985. Rowan, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to top $3.3 billion, founded Apollo in 1990 with Leon Black and Joshua Harris after working with them at investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert. Marc Rowan is also chair of Wharton’s Board of Overseers, a Penn trustee and co-chair of the school’s current fundraising campaign.

According to the school, the money will be used to recruit three Rowan Distinguished Professors who are global leaders in their fields, who will inspire faculty and students alike, and who will build bridges between academia and business. The Rowans’ gift will also support the appointment of a select number of Rowan Fellows for five-year terms to recognize and support Wharton’s most distinguished faculty in their commitment to innovative research and teaching.


“I am deeply grateful for Marc and Carolyn’s extraordinary gift, which reflects their passion to bring to Wharton the most innovative researchers working on the world’s most pressing and important questions,” said Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett. “Their commitment is the cornerstone of a campaign that will empower Wharton, more than ever, to create leaders who will change the world.”

The Rowans has long been a generous benefactor to both Wharton and the university. Contributing to Wharton and Penn since 1984, the Rowan’s philanthropy has supported undergraduate and MBA financial aid, faculty, capital projects, the Dean’s fund, Wharton Customer Analytics, The Wharton Fund, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the football program, Penn Medicine’s Basser Center for BRCA, and Penn Medicine’s Orphan Disease Center.

“Inspiring Wharton faculty who were committed to cutting edge business education were catalysts for my success,” said Marc Rowan in a statement. “Carolyn and I are honored to join the vision of the Wharton community to bring the school’s outstanding students face to face with the most important thinkers of our time. As top Wharton researchers advance and shape their fields, they transform the lives of their students, preparing them to make a difference in the business world and beyond.”

The Rowan gift exceeds by $10 million the Huntsman family pledge of $40 million in 1998, a gift that led to the naming of Huntsman Hall and has been until now the largest Wharton had ever received. Huntsman Hall opened in 2002.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.