Ron Fowler.
Liam James Doyle/University of St. Thomas

St. Thomas Announces $3 Million Gift to Support Student Entrepreneurship Competitions

One of the University of St. Thomas’ hallmark student venture competitions will be funded in perpetuity thanks to the generosity of one of its most distinguished alumni.

Ron and Alexis Fowler.
Alexis and Ron Fowler

The university’s Schulze School of Entrepreneurship has announced a $3 million donation from Ron ’66 and Alexis Fowler that will extend funding for both the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, as well as St. Thomas’ participation in the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge. The most recent donation brings the Fowlers’ total support for the competitions to $6.7 million since 2009.

In its 14th year, the Fowler Business Concept Challenge is open to all St. Thomas undergraduate and graduate students (regardless of major) and has awarded $787,500 in scholarship prizes since its 2009 inception. The competition features tracks for students primarily focused on solving significant social problems such as poverty, social injustice and environmental sustainability, as well as students focused on traditional commercial ventures. This year, the competition will also introduce the annual Kate Herzog Memorial Award to support aspiring social entrepreneurs with a passion for poverty alleviation, serving under-resourced communities and closing opportunity gaps.

“A St. Thomas education helps students lead a lifetime of purpose, and the Schulze School contributes to that by showing them how to use business as a vehicle for social change,” said Dr. Sheneeta White, associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. “This gift from the Fowlers represents real opportunities for St. Thomas students to explore how to use an entrepreneurial mindset to bring meaningful change to their community, and the world.”

In June 2023, St. Thomas will host the Global Finals of the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, which since 2011 has engaged over 2,500 students from 25 countries and distributed more than $600,000 to seed innovative global ventures. Two St. Thomas teams received seed funding in last year’s competition. St. Thomas began collaborating with the University of San Diego to support the challenge in 2019.

Fowler graduated from St. Thomas in 1966, is the current chairman and CEO of Liquid Investments, Inc. and is a former owner of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres. Over the years, the San Diego businessman has taken a special interest in empowering the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and giving them a forum to test their ideas and reward them with scholarships and funds to take those ideas to the next level. The competitions in his name are outlets for students to achieve those objectives.

“Today’s generation is filled with ideas that can make a difference in the world, but many of them are not given opportunities to be seen or flourish – that’s the real value of these competitions: a chance to be visible,” Fowler said. “People took the time to help me lift up my ideas and passions, and it’s important for us to continue paying it forward and giving these same opportunities to today’s young entrepreneurs.”