Gifts to Public Universities

  • Education
  • 1887

Given the innumerable private colleges created, transformed, or sustained by private giving, it is easy to overlook the role philanthropy has played in the country’s public universities. A large private gift aimed at encouraging the flourishing of the University of Michigan was received as early as 1887. A 1906 bequest of several million dollars enabled the University of Wisconsin to offer salaries twice as large as average to attract leading scholars. In 1929 the University of Virginia received an anonymous donation of $6 million that fueled scholarships and fellowships. Today, state colleges like the University of Virginia and the University of California, Berkeley actually receive more revenue from private gifts and endowment income than from state appropriations. Private giving is now crucial to the fundraising of most state universities across the country. Indeed, even our nation’s federally funded military academies have come to count on donations to expand into important new areas or improve the quality of cadet life.