$150M gift founds Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

H. Fisk Johnson speaks with students
Jason Koski/University Photography
Fisk Johnson meets with students in this file photo from 2009. In recognition of the new gift from him and SC Johnson, the College of Business has been renamed the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

H. Fisk Johnson ’79, M.Eng. ’80, M.S. ’82, MBA ’84, Ph.D. ’86, and SC Johnson have committed $150 million for Cornell University’s College of Business, which comprises the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, the School of Hotel Administration, and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. It is the largest single gift to Cornell’s Ithaca campus and the second largest gift to name a U.S. business school.

In recognition of this historic gift and the Johnson family’s extraordinary, multigenerational legacy of leadership and philanthropy to Cornell, the Cornell University Board of Trustees has approved renaming the college the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

“Cornell University has been a part of my family for more than 120 years,” said Fisk Johnson, SC Johnson chairman and CEO, and a Cornell trustee emeritus. “I hope this gift will serve as a significant catalyst to help grow the reach and impact of Cornell’s College of Business. The goal is to strengthen the College of Business overall, while enhancing its three individual schools and the qualities that make each exceptional.”

Community celebration set for Jan. 31
The Cornell community is invited to celebrate the historic gift naming the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 11:30 a.m. in Statler Auditorium. SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson, Cornell Interim President Hunter Rawlings, Dean Soumitra Dutta and President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes will give remarks, and the event will be live-streamed on CornellCast. A reception will follow.

“This generous gift will transform business education at Cornell, providing significant and ongoing support for the faculty, students and programs of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business,” said Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III. “The benefits and opportunities for students are exciting, the support for faculty at the three component schools is crucial, and the incentives for other donors are inspiring.”

Two-thirds of the gift, $100 million, will be used to create a permanent endowment to support the college’s highest ambitions.  In the near term, the endowment will provide flexibility for faculty recruitment and retention in Ithaca and New York City; increase the college’s competitiveness for top students through expanded scholarship resources; and develop and expand programs in and outside of Ithaca. These funds will enable new interdisciplinary research initiatives in areas that leverage and enhance the college’s and Cornell’s research strengths – particularly in the areas of sustainability and technology.

One new initiative the gift will support is the SC Johnson Scholars program, which will benefit a cohort of undergraduates in Dyson and the School of Hotel Administration. The program will create academic and experiential opportunities that enhance general coursework, including access to SC Johnson-sponsored immersion programs, mentoring and workshops; domestic and international internships; and shadowing opportunities.

The remaining $50 million of the gift will be used as a current-use challenge grant to leverage philanthropic support from others on a 1:3 basis, allowing the college to raise an additional $150 million in endowment and bring the total potential impact of the gift to $300 million. The challenge will have a special focus on faculty and student support, while also promoting innovative programs. Endowment gifts for the college’s three schools or the college broadly will be eligible for the challenge.

Launched in July 2016, the College of Business’ initial goal was to establish a comprehensive and collaborative business management program to benefit students at all academic stages.

“This extraordinary gift will further that goal by creating more diverse and rigorous learning and research opportunities for both faculty and students across the college’s three accredited business programs,” said Soumitra Dutta, dean of the college. “It also will help enhance the unique characteristics and strengths of each and support our mission to realize the full potential of Cornell’s business programs.”

Each of the three schools maintains its distinct identity and mission, Dutta said, while collectively benefiting from these substantial new resources.

The Dyson School is recognized across New York and around the world as a leader in agricultural, developmental, international, and environmental and resource economics and management.

The School of Hotel Administration is the top-ranked global hospitality program and leads the world in fostering deep business-focused understanding of the service and hospitality industries, real estate and entrepreneurial training.

Johnson is a globally recognized leader in graduate management education, with a portfolio of innovative programs in Ithaca, New York City, North and South America, and China, and a history of pioneering work in performance learning and integrated leadership approaches in business education.

Huge strides in college’s first year

The gift comes just one year after the announcement of the formation of the College of Business and a new era of business education at Cornell. In just the past year, the college was established, academically and administratively; its leadership, including individual school deans, was appointed; and the college’s career services staff and employer relations efforts were expanded. The college created an integrated admissions portal and cross-listed courses and coordinated scheduling to give students a broader range of classes and multidisciplinary courses across the partner schools. An advisory council was created this past fall.

New space was leased in midtown Manhattan, growing the college’s presence in New York City, and, in Ithaca, a $25 million gift from Johnson alumnus David Breazzano, MBA ’80, will create the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education in a new six-story building in Collegetown (expected to open this summer).

A new master’s degree in accounting was announced at Johnson and a dual-degree MBA/M.S. program was launched between Johnson and Weill Cornell Medicine. The Cornell SC Johnson College of Business will also continue to partner with Cornell Tech, which will move to its permanent home on Roosevelt Island in New York City this summer.

Already, the college’s combined faculty from the three partner schools gives it the third-largest business faculty in the country.

“Fisk Johnson and SC Johnson’s historic gift reflects not only a confidence in the strides the college has made in this past year, but also the university’s enduring commitment and mission to New York state,” Rawlings said. “Fisk, like all of us who care about business education at Cornell, is deeply invested in seeing the three individual schools and their faculty, students and alumni thrive.”

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