Skip to main content
  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print

What's in a name?

  • Story Highlights
  • U.S. business school receives major gift in exchange for keeping name
  • It is unique deal -- many big donors get school named after them
  • Benefactors are group of ex-students who wanted to give something back
  • Next Article in World Business »
By Peter Walker for CNN
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

LONDON, England (CNN) -- It is a common way for business schools to secure their future: In exchange for a substantial bequest from a former student or other benefactor the school is re-named in their honor.


Big checks were written -- but the Wisconsin School's donors did not want a name change.

However, in a unique twist to this practice, the Wisconsin School of Business has just been given $85 million by a group of alumni on one condition -- it keeps its name exactly the same.

Naming business schools after major philanthropists is nothing new. Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business acquired its well-known moniker as long ago as 1900, when financier Edward Tuck set up the Amos Tuck School of Administration and Finance in memory of his father.

More recently, other top-ranking U.S. schools have taken major donors' names, for example Northwestern University's Kellogg School, in 1979, and New York University's Stern School, in 1988.

In contrast, the donation to the Wisconsin School, part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, obliges it to keep its current name for at least 20 years.

The donors, a group of alumni who gave at least $5 million each, formed themselves into the so-called Wisconsin Naming Partnership to make the gift as a gesture of support to their former school.

"We were inspired by the commitment Wisconsin business students have for the school," said one of the donors, Ab Nicholas, chairman of a Wisconsin-based investment firm and a 1955 MBA graduate from the school.

"We hope this naming gift inspires an even broader group of alumni to give back to the university that helped shape who they are today."

During the 20 years of the gift's conditions, the school cannot be named after a single donor or organization, while the decision to keep the school's original name leave open the possibility of future bequests based on eventually changing this. It is the first time a business school has benefited in this way.

John D. Wiley, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, called the gift "a creative act of philanthropy."

Fact Box

FT MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Columbia, U.S.
3. Harvard, U.S.
4. Stanford GSB, U.S.
5. London Business School, UK
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Insead, France/Singapore
8. Stern, NYU, U.S.
9. Tuck, Dartmouth, U.S.
10. Yale, U.S.
Source: Financial Times 2007

"These partners have stepped forward to ensure that their deep pride in this school, this university and this state is passed along to the next generation of business students," he said.

The school would use the gift to enhance resources for both MBA and undergraduate programs, for example by hiring new faculty, as well as improving executive education courses, its dean, Michael Knetter, added.

"The commitment made by the partners is a reflection of their enduring engagement with the school that helped them launch their own successful careers," he noted.

Knetter came up with the original idea, having decided that seeking a one-off donation in return for a new name would involve costly re-branding for a well-established school with strong roots in its home area.

The 13 donors -- two of whom chose to remain anonymous -- cover former Wisconsin students from the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s, who live everywhere from the school's home state to London, England. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print