University of Chicago Receives Record $300M Donation

The University of Chicago announced Thursday that an alumnus has given its business school a $300 million gift, a record sum that comes as many universities worry they'll see donations dry up amid the financial meltdown.

The unrestricted donation by David G. Booth, chairman and CEO of Dimensional Fund Advisors, and his family is the largest individual gift ever to a U.S. business school and the largest in the University of Chicago's history, said Dean Edward Snyder.

The school will be renamed the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said Snyder, whose announcement was met by a standing ovation and cheers from students and faculty assembled at a news conference.

"I cannot adequately express the deep gratitude that we feel toward David and Suzanne," Snyder said, referring also to Booth's wife.

The money will "attract star faculty" and possibly expand the school's international presence, Snyder said. The school also has campuses in London and Singapore.

The previous record for a business school was a $105 million gift to Stanford University's Graduate School of Business in 2006 from Philip H. Knight, founder and chairman of Nike Inc., Snyder said. The largest to the University of Chicago was a $100 million gift from an anonymous donor in 2007.

Booth, who previously gave the business school $10 million, said the first course he took with professor Eugene Fama was a "life-changing" event for him. He earned a master's degree from the university in 1971 and founded Dimensional Fund Advisors, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based asset management firm, in 1981.

"It's not a gift ... it's the University of Chicago getting its due for helping me out all along the way," Booth said.

Booth's gift from the Booth Family Trust is a combination of an upfront payment and interest in part of the trust's shares in Dimensional Holdings, Inc., parent company of Dimensional Fund Advisors, the school said in a statement. The business school will receive income from the shares and the value of the shares if they are sold.

University President Robert J. Zimmer called the gift "extraordinary in both its generosity and its endorsement of the university's mission."

About 3,100 students attend the business school. It has about 42,000 alumni worldwide, according to the school's Web site.