Donors get dibs in higher ed

Mike and Marian Ilitch’s $40 million gift to Wayne State University for a new business school came not from alumni but from previous donors well known for boosting downtown Detroit. The gift includes $35 million for the building, use of the land at $1 a year and a $5 million endowment. The couple founded Little Caesars in 1959. So—will the new complex serve that brand of pizza? No discussions on that one to date, laughs Chacona Johnson, foundation president/vice president for university development and alumni affairs. In fact, even the business-school vision wasn’t a direct discussion at first; it was a hopeful sentiment the couple heard President M. Roy Wilson mention to a group. Wayne State doesn’t award honorary degrees based on financial contributions (only for people with distinguished accomplishments throughout their lifetime), so that wasn’t a consideration. But given the Ilitches’ sports and entertainment interests—the family owns two minor-league sports teams, Olympia Entertainment and a casino hotel—the school has plans to build a sports and entertainment management program.

University Business

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