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Johnson $150 M Gift Renames Cornell College of Business

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Celebrating a relationship that spans four generations, SC Johnson Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson has endowed $150 million to the Cornell University College of Business network of schools. By far the largest gift in the school’s history, it is indeed among the largest gifts ever to a leading business school. Stanford Graduate School of Business received an equivalent $150 million gift in 2011, and David Booth’s 2008 naming gift to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business currently holds the record at $300 million. Although Stephen Ross, for whom the University of Michigan Ross School of Business is named, gave $200 million, it was spread across two different donations in 2004 and 2013.

The entire endowment will be distributed between Cornell’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, the School of Hotel Administration and the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, which in July 2016 merged to become the Cornell College of Business. In recognition of this latest gift, it has been formally renamed the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

“Cornell University has been a part of my family for more than 120 years,” Fisk Johnson said in a statement. Indeed, the family ties almost couldn’t run deeper. Fisk himself holds five degrees from Cornell, including a Johnson MBA. His three siblings also hold degrees from Cornell, as do both his parents, Samuel C. Johnson ’50 and Imogene Powers Johnson ’52. Sam served as a trustee for 22 years and as presidential councilor from 1988 until his death in 2004. Gene remains a presidential councilor and member of the Lab of Ornithology Administrative Board. Sam and Gene made numerous gifts to Cornell, resulting in the naming of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management in honor of Sam’s grandfather in 1984 and the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity in 2000.

But the Johnson legacy at Cornell dates back even farther than that, to Fisk’s grandfather, Herbert F. Johnson Jr. ’22, a trustee from 1947 to 72 and a presidential councilor from 1972 until his death in 1978. Herbert Johnson, for his part, committed funds to allow for the construction of the art museum that today bears his name. And the Johnson family might never have gotten its start had Herbert, while a student, not happened to meet his future wife, Gertrude, the daughter of a Cornell professor and founder of the Department of Art.

The formation of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business amplifies and extends the remarkable impact of the Johnson family for future generations of business students at Cornell. “I hope this gift will serve as a significant catalyst to help grow the reach and impact of Cornell’s College of Business,” Fisk Johnson said in a statement. “The goal is to strengthen the College of Business overall, while enhancing its three individual schools and the qualities that make each exceptional.”

Johnson College of Business
Fisk Johnson continues his family’s legacy of supporting Cornell

Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III also noted the significance of the donation, stating, “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. 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.”

Around two-thirds of the $150 million will be used to expand the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business’ efforts in recruiting world-class faculty, retaining students, providing extensive scholarship resources (including the SC Johnson Scholars program for undergraduates at Dyson and the School of Hotel Administration) and allowing for a sharper focus on concentrations in sustainability and technology. The remaining portion of the endowment, according to a press release issued by the school, “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.” In particular, the challenge grant is intended to further increase faculty and student support and promote innovative programs.

“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,” Cornell SC Johnson College of Business Dean Soumitra Dutta added in a statement. “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.”

The official endowment ceremony will take place tomorrow, January 31st, at 11:30 a.m. at the Statler Auditorium. Fisk Johnson, Interim President Rawlings, Dean Dutta and President Emeritus Frank H.T. Rhodes will all be on hand to give remarks.

Matthew Korman
Matthew Korman is a contributing author and editor for Clear Admit. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked with numerous academic institutions, in addition to roles as a music industry writer, promoter, and data analyst. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.