Texas McCombs Gets ‘Transformative’ Millions

Mary Beth and Phil Canfield have given Phil’s alma mater, the UT Austin McCombs Business School, $20 million. McCombs photo

The University of Texas at Austin McCombs Business School received one of the biggest individual gifts of 2018 this month when a former student and current equity fund manager and his wife donated $20 million. Phil Canfield, managing director at the private equity firm GTCR in Chicago and a 1989 graduate of the UT Austin business honors program, and his wife Mary Beth Canfield made the gift to the program that will now carry their family name.

“We both believe if you’re helping education and you’re helping people get access to education, that is the single highest leverage and best ROI investment you can make philanthropically,” Phil Canfield said at an announcement of the gift on Friday (December 1) and the unveiling of the newly dubbed Canfield Business Honors Program.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been in that program,” Canfield continued. “It launched what’s been a really fun and successful investment career, and in many ways, I feel like it’s a dividend back to the school for the investment that the school made in me back then.”


Phil Canfield: McCombs offers “best undergraduate business education in the country and world.” Courtesy photo

The gift will provide full-tuition scholarships, improve recruitment of top talent, increase the national profile of McCombs’ Business Honors program, and help boost and broaden program offerings and student resources. Speaking to the Daily Texan, the student newspaper at UT Austin, McCombs Dean Jay Hartzell said $7 million of the donation will go toward the McCombs Scholars Program for a matching scholarship fund, where the next $7 million donated will be matched by the Canfield’s contribution. $10 million will go into an endowment fund that covers such expenses as marketing and perception surveys for the honors program, and the remaining $3 million will be used as immediate spending money.

“In order to make a gift like this, you have to have confidence in the leadership,” Phil Canfield said. “My conversations with Dean Hartzell give me faith and trust in his vision for the program and his ability to execute. My confidence is very high.”

Canfield said he returned to the campus three years ago as a parent of a prospective Business Honors student and it was then that he  decided to make the gift.

“It made me realize two things,” he said. “First, for as great as I thought the program was when I was here, it’s 100% better now. Second, it’s the best undergraduate business education in the country and world, but it’s not broadly recognized at the national level, so part of what I want to do is elevate the status of BHP.”


Accessibility and affordability were foremost on Canfield’s mind in deciding to donate such a large gift to his alma mater. “I think it cost me $2,000 a year to go here, and even in the late 1980s, (that many) dollars is not that much money,” he told the Daily Texan. “And it’s not (that same amount) today. Accessibility and affordability for a public university is essential in the long run.” 

“Phil and Mary Beth’s transformative gift will take McCombs’ outstanding Business Honors Program to new heights, and they’ll provide greater opportunity for business students to come to UT, pursue their dreams and make vital contributions,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of the university, in a statement included in the school’s official announcement of the $20 million gift. “The Canfields’ gift will change the game for the McCombs School of Business. And, for future UT students, it will also be a life-changer.”

We are thrilled and grateful to the Canfields for their investment in our honors program. Their generosity will allow us to improve what is already an amazing program, and to ensure that we will always provide our students with the education, exposure and community they need to become excellent leaders in business and society,” said Dean Jay Hartzell.

“I also firmly believe that this investment will make a material difference — not only in the honors program, but also in the broader community, increasing our national reputation and the impact of our school and university.”


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