This week three U.S. universities – Franklin College, Idaho State University and the University of Michigan – have received major private gifts, each one historic in its own way for the recipient institution.
On April 19, Franklin College, a private, liberal arts college in Franklin, Indiana, reported that it had received the largest private bequest in its history – a $3.9 million estate commitment from 1971 alumna Eleanor T. (Ellie) Ackley.
Ackley’s gift is unrestricted, meaning that it can be used for any priority that the college designates.
“Franklin College gave me a lifetime of skills and lifelong friends that made my college experience memorable,” Ackley said in the college’s news release. “Those friends, classmates and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters have greatly enriched my life to this day. I wish all of them and the college continued success and happiness. Go Grizzlies!”
Praising Ackley for her generous gift, Franklin College President Kerry N. Prather said, “When I speak about the importance of Franklin College to the world, it is with people like Ellie in mind. This commitment to Franklin College reflects not only the impact of this institution on her life, but also her faith in its mission and future. She is helping perpetuate the uniquely transformative Franklin College experience for generations of Grizzlies to come.”
Ackley, who has made substantial donations to her alma mater previously, graduated from Franklin in 1971, majoring in political science and history. She later earned her Master’s in elementary education from Miami University. She is president and owner of Florida Sunshine Vacation Rentals, a business she and her late husband started in 2004.
Idaho State University
Idaho State University, in Pocatello, Idaho, announced on Wednesday that it had received a $14 million gift from the ALSAM Foundation to renovate its College of Pharmacy. The gift was described by the university as “the largest ever one-time donation” it had received, and it brings the total contributions to Idaho State from the Salt lake City-based ALSAM Foundation to more than $26 million, more than any other contributor to the institution.
The renovation will involve replacing research labs with new technology, adding student learning spaces, and supporting a growing graduate program in the biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences. The total project is expected to cost almost $21 million and is scheduled for completion in 2025.
“This gift allows our College of Pharmacy to continue its 100-year tradition of providing a high-quality education,” President Kevin Satterlee said in the university’s announcement. “As the state’s designated health science university, we will continue to meet an ever-growing demand for a highly trained and skilled workforce. This will build on and foster our statewide leadership in health science education.”
The ALSAM Foundation was established by L.S. “Sam” and Aline Skaggs, who began their business with a series of family-owned drugstores. They later grew their footprint into more than 200 retail outlets in 21 states, including the American Stores Company and such businesses as Osco and Sav-On drugstores, Safeway, Albertsons, Acme Markets, and Alpha Beta stores.
In recognition of the latest gift and the couple’s prior support for Idaho State, the university will rename its college of pharmacy to the L. S. Skaggs College of Pharmacy, adding it to a group of other schools of pharmacy named after the Skaggs Family, including the University of Utah, University of Montana, University of Colorado, University of Arizona, and University of California, San Diego.
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan’s W.K. Kellogg Eye Center received an $11.5 million gift from philanthropist James Grosfeld to advance research into age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It’s estimated that 11 million people are affected by AMD in the United States and 170 million worldwide. Most cases of AMD involve what’s called the “dry” form of the disease, which causes a gradual blurring of central vision and for which there is no current cure.
Grosfeld’s gift will support:
- Two new endowed professorships focused on dry AMD research
- Increased laboratory staffing to increase research output
- Collaborative grants linking dry AMD investigators with other experts at the Kellogg Eye Center and across the university
- A pluripotent stem cell facility to create cells for dry AMD-related research
- A collation of ophthalmic images to advance clinicians’ ability to track dry AMD progression
- Pilot funding for proof-of-concept experiments and research grants for trainees who bring new ideas and perspectives to dry AMD research
James Grosfeld is the former chairman and CEO of PulteGroup, Inc., one of the nation’s largest homebuilders. In the university’s release, Grosfeld said he made the gift, one of the largest ever for AMD research, because he was “inspired by the passion, the commitment, and the ideas of the Kellogg Eye Center teams. Increasing the speed and the breadth of discovery in dry AMD can make a significant difference in people’s lives.”