In the job as dean of Yale’s School of Management for just five months, economist Kerwin K. Charles showed today that he has comfortably put on the shoes of his famously successful predecessor in the job. Charles today (Dec. 5) announced that SOM has received its largest gift in history, a $100 million pledge from a well-known American philanthropist who has no connection to either the university or its business school.
The landmark gift from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will have an immediate impact because SOM agreed to create a tuition-free master’s degree for emerging education leaders as well as advanced leadership training for top school system executives that will begin in 2020. At steady state, Yale expects to enroll 35 students in its master’s program and another 30 in non-degree summer programs for superintendents and other school officials. The gift will also establish The Broad Center at SOM which will be tasked with an extensive research endeavor aimed at assembling what the school is calling “the premier collection” of data on public education leadership. The school said the center will commence operations this year with a search for new faculty and staff who will then plan future programs.
The gift, among the top ten ever given to a business school, was brought in by Charles, who succeeded Edward ‘Ted’ Snyder as dean on July 1st of this year. Charles began discussions with The Broad Foundation shortly after starting his term. The plans for The Broad Center at Yale SOM that emerged from those talks, he notes, fit squarely with both the school’s mission to educate leaders for business and society and his own long-held research interest in how to overcome barriers to economic advancement and human flourishing.
YALE SOM GETS LARGEST GIFT EVER OF $100 MILLION FROM THE ELI & EDYTHE BROAD FOUNDATION
“It was clear from early on that Dean Charles’ vision for Yale SOM and the aspirations of The Broad Foundation were a strong fit,” said Joel Getz, the senior associate dean for development and alumni relations at Yale SOM, in a statement. “The fact that the largest gift in SOM’s history is being devoted to a non-traditional topic for a business school—but one of obvious importance to the greater society—feels both appropriate and telling about the school’s values
The gift is a real coup for Charles, occurring after departing Dean Snyder expressed the belief that academia is moving from a place where management education in universities has long been dominant to a shift toward science and technology. Snyder, who brought in the single largest gift–$300 million–ever made to a business school in 1997 when he was dean of the University of Chicago, also believed that mega-gifts to B-schools would be tougher to get (see Yale SOM’s Ted Snyder On The Durability Of The M7, MBA Application Declines & More).
Only this year, three other business schools also received the largest gifts ever: the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business announced a $68 million pledge in May from Frank M. Sands Sr., in honor of his late wife, Marjorie R. Sands; Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business earlier this week got $30 million from the Goizueta Foundation which brought the foundation’s gifts to the school named after the late Coca-Cola CEO to nearly $100 million, and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School received a $25 million donation from the Bakala Foundation to benefit the school’s global learning requirement for MBAs.
A MEETING IN LA FIELDING ‘INCREDIBLY TOUGH QUESTIONS’
The announcement brought much excitement and celebration to Yale SOM today. “This is very big, for Yale and the nation,” believes Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for Leadership Studies at SOM. “The first time at the plate, he knocked a grand slam right out to the park. We are all rejoicing. Kerwin is the real deal. He has virtually no ego, lots of vision, and hits the ground with amazing momentum in execution.”
In an interview with Poets&Quants, Charles says that after arriving in New Haven for his new job he heard that the Broads were rethinking what they would do with an existing education program they had run for close to two decades. “Among the possibilities was to locate the center at a policy school or a school of business,” says Charles. “We had no idea who our competitors were but we quickly put together a proposal that drew upon the strengths of the school and thought carefully about how such a thing could be given a new life under the School of Management. We know that other business schools would have had a difficult time crafting something that would be appealing in this space.”
The dean, who had been a professor and a former deputy dean at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, flew to Los Angeles to meet with Eli and Edythe Broad in September. “I am not an easily awed person but I was blown away by the Broads,” says Charles. “I found them deeply committed to public education in the United States. They asked incredibly tough questions and the back-and-forth conversation helped to sharpen our proposal and caused us to think hard about what we could do. ”
It helped that the school’s mission from its very start has been to train leaders for both the public and private sectors and that Charles himself felt strongly about how the educational system contributes to inequality. “This is in my wheelhouse and in a particular way it is also perfect for a school of management, he reasons. “This is our thing and we will be the best place in the world at this thing and proudly hold on to it. Other places don’t say they train leaders for business and society because they don’t mean it very much. This is in our DNA.
A QUICK WALK FROM HIS OFFICE TO HOME & A BOTTLE OF WINE FOR A QUIET CELEBRATION
“I think it is difficult to manufacture enthusiasm and interest beyond the first 15 minutes of a meeting if you don’t believe in this issue. My scholarly life has been devoted to the documentation of inequality in its various forms. I have written about education directly. So when I say to someone there is going to be a center that will be focused on education, they know I am talking about something that matters deeply to me. When one is doing something like this, you are talking to potential benefactors but I don’t have my 100 plus faculty with me in the room. I talked to a subset of the faculty and I was struck by their enthusiasm. It emboldened me.”
For the past three months, Charles and his team worked nearly non-stop nailing down the details of their proposal in advance of today’s announcement. When he got the phone call in his campus office that SOM had won the grant, Charles said he was exhilarated. “I walk home from work, and that was my quickest walk home in a while,” he says. “I don’t like counting chickens prematurely but my wife and I cracked open some wine. We celebrated quietly at home and I reflected on what I was signing up for. There is work to be done.”
Eli Broad, 86, who has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, has long been one of the country’s most generous philanthropists. He has poured billions into a variety of causes, including public K-12 education, scientific and medical research and the visual and performing arts. He and his wife, Edythe, have personally committed to giving 75% of their wealth away. He is also no stranger to business school gift giving, having handed over a $20 million naming gift in 1991 to Michigan State University’s business school, where he majored in accounting. At the time it was the largest gift ever received by a public business school. He also endowed the dean’s chair of Broad College of Business for $5 million. Five years ago, he and his wife awarded a $25 million challenge grant to the Broad College of Business, part of which funded a newly opened graduate pavilion that now houses the MBA and professional graduate programs of the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management.