Anonymous donor contributes $50 million to Opus College of Business

An anonymous donor has given $50 million – one of the three largest gifts to higher education in Minnesota history – to the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business.

The gift to St. Thomas' "Opening Doors" capital campaign will be used to increase the college's endowment. For generations to come, interest income from the endowment will be used for academic programs and scholarships.

"For a dean, a gift like this is a dream come true," said Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the Opus College of Business. "Earlier gifts have provided us with new academic facilities that are the finest available. The $50 million opens the door to exciting new opportunities for our students as well as faculty."

For students, the gift will support scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It also will provide a whole new level of support for student activities outside the classroom, including research and participation in national conferences and competitions.

For faculty, the gift will make possible several new professional development programs, especially in the area of business research.

"Support for research and professional-development is essential to retaining and attracting the best possible faculty," Puto said. "We recently have attracted prized business faculty members from Northwestern, California-Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Michigan State and the University of Minnesota. The kind of support this $50 million makes possible is a huge asset as we continue to develop our respected faculty."

The $50 million anonymous gift announced today equals the one made to St. Thomas in 2000 by Best Buy founder and chairman Richard Schulze and his late wife, Sandra. The largest gift, $60 million, was given to St. Thomas last fall by Lee and Penny Anderson. He is owner and chairman of the St. Paul-based APi Group Inc.

Opening Doors is an eight-year, $500 million campaign that was announced by St. Thomas in October. To date it has raised $317 million in gifts and pledges, an amount that includes the $50 million gift from the anonymous donor.

With the exception of contributions earmarked for construction projects, most of the campaign funds will build endowment for scholarships, endowed faculty positions and educational programs.

"This extraordinary gift will serve as a cornerstone of a capital fundraising effort that will afford St. Thomas students a whole new level of access and excellence," said the Rev. Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas. "The impact of a gift like this is enormous for St. Thomas and the entire region. We are deeply grateful not only for the size of this contribution, but for the donor's quiet but powerful commitment to the kind of education offered by our Opus College of Business … an education grounded in the liberal arts, in values and in ethics."

With 2,142 graduate students and 2,427 undergraduates, the Opus College of Business enrolls just over 40 percent of the university's 10,984 students. It offers undergraduate majors in 12 fields and master's degrees in eight, including day and evening MBA programs. The college's Center for Business Excellence enrolls another 7,800 participants annually in its continuing executive-education classes, and provides custom programs for 150 businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Classes are offered on the university's main campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as in Owatonna, Rochester, Bloomington, Maple Grove and Eagan.

The Opus College of Business also is home to nine centers and research institutes in the fields of health policy and medical affairs, ethical business cultures, entrepreneurship and small business, family business, nonprofit management and real estate.

Classroom facilities for the Opus College of Business include two recently opened buildings: the $22 million Schulze Hall that opened in Minneapolis in 2005, and the $25 million McNeely Hall that opened in St. Paul in 2006.