September 19, 2019 | 48° F

Donor gives $27 million for U. chairs

The University recently received its largest donation in its 245-year history.

An anonymous donor gave $27 million to the “Our Rutgers, Our Future” $1 billion foundation campaign, which will be used solely for creating 18 endowed chairs.

“This is a transformative gift for Rutgers,” said Carol Herring, president of the Rutgers University Foundation, which this year has seen its biggest growth by raising $137.4 million so far.

The gift is a challenge gift. The anonymous donor will give $1.5 million of the required $3 million needed to establish a chair, and another donor must match it. The second donor will then have the ability to name the chair, which will last for years to come, Herring said.

Considered honors for professors, endowed chairs are used to recruit top faculty to the University while also maintaining current faculty members, said Richard Edwards, interim executive vice president for Academic Affairs, via email.

The University currently has 41 chairs, Herring said.

“Recruiting and retaining the best faculty ensure that the University remains competitive. These faculty members carry out cutting-edge research, attract the best graduate students to the University and are outstanding classroom instructors whose groundbreaking research brings the latest advances in their particular field to the students,” Edwards said.

The anonymous donor also specified that the new chairs be in the sciences, mathematics and business fields, but other fields may be up for consideration on an ad-hoc basis, Herring said.

The selection process for a professor to fill a chair is an academic affair. Departments hold a national search and make a recommendation to the unit’s dean, who then brings it to the executive vice president for Academic Affairs for approval, Edwards said.

The Board of Governors makes the final selection of chairs, who can hold their terms with the possibility of reappointment for three to five years, he said.

Herring said their goal is to appoint the new chairs within one to two years.

“It’s a great opportunity, and the donor recognized how important chairs are to Rutgers,” she said.

The second-largest gift in University history, which was to the tune of $13 million three years ago, was from the same anonymous donor, Herring said.

Since the seven-year campaign’s commencement in 2006, the University raised $574.4 million from alumni, friends, corporations and foundations.

“We’re going at the pace we want to, which is good,” Herring said.

Gifts this year have been as small as $25 to as large as millions, and have come from 56,000 donors, she said.

Since the University has seen its biggest donations this year, Herring and the campaign hope to continue the upward trajectory. Its first year, the campaign raised $66 million, compared to its $137 million in its fifth year.

The foundation asked the University community before the campaign began where the funds should be distributed. They received more than 470 proposals totaling $6 billion.

“[What] is important to Rutgers is that we have more private support to do the things we want to do,” she said.

The funds so far have helped construct buildings, fund courses and initiatives and endow chairs. Academic staff, not the foundation itself,  decide their distribution, Herring said.

“We’re trying to raise money for what really matters,” she said.

By Mary Diduch

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