Boston University just renamed its business school the Questrom School of Business thanks to a $50 million donation, the largest in the university’s history, from Allen Questrom, former CEO of department and specialty stores, and his wife, Kelli. In a world where very few business schools remain unwilling to give their names over to big-ticket donors, this isn’t hugely surprising news. But it is a boon for the school, which says it will use the money to endow 10 new faculty positions and design a new facility for the school.
Back in 2006, Bloomberg Businessweek sounded prophetic in reporting on the business school naming rights trend:
For most “unnamed” schools, it will probably only be a matter of time before the right big-pocketed donor comes along. Though identifying a specific dollar amount is always a delicate proposition, deans and development directors from the as-yet-unnamed business schools at the University of Connecticut, University of Tennessee, and University of Wisconsin say they would be happy to give up their naming rights for gifts in the neighborhood of $50 million.*
The $50 million mark was evidently right on the money for BU, as well. That’s less than the highest tier business schools have commanded. David G. Booth gave $300 million to rename the University of Chicago business school the Booth School of Business in 2008. In 2004, Stephen M. Ross gave the University of Michigan $100 million to put his name on the school.
Schools like BU can use a somewhat smaller—if still record-setting—cash infusion to recruit better faculty, sponsor more research, and push their school to the next level. But schools in the highest tier can command higher prices because their administrators have to decide whether the money is worth removing their own venerable brand name from the building. (Those schools also tend to have much higher endowments, meaning it takes a bigger donation to impress.) For those reasons, you probably won’t be seeing anyone scrubbing the name “Harvard Business School” off the building anytime soon.
* Update: Since 2006, when Businessweek ran that story, the University of Tennessee did indeed rename its school for a $50 million gift. The University of Wisconsin, meanwhile, took a $95.4 million gift from 15 donors on the condition that it not rename the school.
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