Landmark $25 Million Gift Will Endow Kellogg’s Entrepreneurial Fellows Program For Generations

Landmark $25 Million Gift Will Endow Kellogg’s Entrepreneurial Fellows Program For Generations

Sam Zell funded entrepreneurial education programs at schools around the world, including the Zell Fellowship program at Kellogg. In 2007, he was awarded Kellogg’s Distinguished Leadership award. Courtesy photo

The Zell Family Foundation, founded by the late real estate investor and entrepreneur Sam Zell, has gifted Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management $25 million to endow the Zell Fellows Program in perpetuity.

Combined with Zell’s past generous support of Kellogg, the gift creates a permanent home for the program at Kellogg and supports entrepreneurs for generations to come.

Zell passed away this May just before he was set to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the program he helped create.

“With Sam’s passing, we lost a visionary entrepreneurial leader and a dedicated champion of our school and students,” Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli says in a release. “The best way to honor Sam’s memory is to continue improving the Zell Fellows Program, which has made and will continue to make the aspirations of some of our incredibly creative students possible. Sam was so proud of them, and always enjoyed meeting and talking to them. He wanted this gift to ensure the program continues to shape and inspire entrepreneurs and innovators who will have meaningful impact around the world, as Sam did.”


2023 marks the 10th year of the Zell Fellowship Program, a highly competitive accelerator for Kellogg MBAs who either want to create something new or acquire and build upon an existing venture. To date, 191 fellows have made it through the program, launching 127 ventures of which 72 are still active. They’ve raised more than $705 million in capital, created $4.75 billion in collective market capitalization, and created more than 3,600 jobs.

Up to 20 Zell Fellows pursuing either the creation of a new venture or acquiring an existing small business are selected in the beginning of their second year. Fellows are mentored by

Kellogg faculty, outside experts and dedicated executive coaches. They meet with successful entrepreneurs and global industry leaders on unique trips and receive stipends and other resources to put towards their businesses. Upon graduation, they join the Zell Global Entrepreneurship Network, a deeply connected and active community made up of Zell Fellow alumni from Kellogg and two other top schools.

Different from other university accelerators, Kellogg’s program focuses on building founders, not on building businesses. It considers itself an accelerator of people, some of whom will go on to create or acquire several ventures in their careers, faculty director David Schonthal told P&Q in May.


“In the decade since Sam created the program, our Zell Fellows have accomplished incredible things,” Schonthal says. “They’ve created and grown businesses in wide-ranging fields, from medical devices to global logistics and sustainable agriculture. They bring to the program a desire to make the world a better place, to create something meaningful and to have lasting impact. This gift will enable Kellogg to provide this incredibly unique platform to our students for years to come. Sam encouraged us to ‘go for greatness,’ and we will continue to do so.”

Zell was chairman of Equity Group Investments, the private investment firm he founded in 1968, and an active philanthropist focused on entrepreneurial education. Through the Zell Family Foundation, he led the sponsorship of several leading entrepreneurship programs around the world. The Zell Global Entrepreneurship Network unites the students and alumni of these programs and actively provides them with connections, opportunities, mentorship and support. Zell was the recipient of the 2007 Kellogg Award for Distinguished Leadership.

“The Zell Family Foundation is proud to continue Sam’s legacy of supporting entrepreneurs who have big ideas, the passion to execute and the drive to go for greatness,” said Helen Zell, president of the Zell Family Foundation. “Sam’s vision with the Kellogg Zell Fellows was to invest in talented people and help them pursue their dreams. We look forward to seeing the results as the Zell Fellows continue that vision going forward.”

Read more about the Zell Fellows program at Kellogg and the ventures of four recent fellowship journeys in this 10-year-anniversary story.


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