In Eugene, the University of Oregon’s athlete tutoring center — a $42 million glass and steel temple surrounded by reflecting pools, lit inside by LED and fire — was upstaged by an athletic performance center that includes lockers costing $27,000 each, Brazilian wood floors and a room papered in Ducks football leather.
On an informal tour of the tutoring center last year, courtesy of my Eugene-based sister, I was stunned: There were glammed-up offices where athletes could meet with privately funded tutors, a lavish appointment center for waiting and an auditorium with Ducks-yellow leather seating. Most of the building was reserved for use by athletes. Even the glass-walled, airy Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan didn’t come close to matching the Oregon facility for opulence and imagination.
Ross likely had the same thought. On Wednesday, U-M announced the Michigan-educated real estate developer (net worth $4.4 billion) is donating $100 million to the business school that bears his name. He is also bestowing $100 million on the athletic department, enough to effect the kind of transformation wrought by Nike CEO Phil Knight in Eugene.
Students at the business school can order a quick chef-prepared omelet in the atrium on the way to Entrepreneurship 101, and the school’s gleaming surfaces and state-of-the-art-technology make it a showpiece. These new gifts add another dimension to the Ross legacy.
But for all the fabulousness these gifts portend, they are also exclusive, directed solely toward future moguls and managers, football players and star athletes. The $100 million athletic donation will benefit a few hundred athletes on a campus of more than 42,000 students.
No future doctors, engineers, biologists, teachers or social workers will likely be touched by Ross’ beneficence. Honors College students — the best and brightest of the liberal arts undergrads — reside at West Quad, a 1937 dormitory lacking an elevator. Professors are tucked into warren-like offices in historic buildings that have scarcely been dusted for decades.
U-M athletics and the business school are heavily endowed, but destined to be more so, even as the public funding that built most of the campus shrinks. The passions of the wealthy begin to drive university priorities and to turn students’ heads. Who will opt for the dingy school of education when the ritzy Ross-Carlton campus beckons?
“Philanthropy is a very personal thing. It’s really about matching a donor’s passions and hopes and dreams and what they really want to accomplish with the school’s needs. He is an alum, he has a passion for business and he has a passion for facilities and those came together to create this gift,” said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Ross School of Business.
It is simple — a man wants to give — and yet not so simple.
Athletics and business schools are ramping up in the national university priorities arms race. The Ross gift comes only months after Phil Knight’s Oregon athletic center opened, drawing national attention as “the University of Nike.” While U-M President Mary Sue Coleman can hardly be expected to turn down such gifts, rest assured that even a free $200 million doesn’t really come cheap.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/2013 ... z2e0h9nFKB