Rich Profs Are Endowing Their Own Universities

What's with those wealthy professors at the University of Southern California? 

In just the past few months, USC landed a $25 million gift for its public policy school from a professor there, Leonard Schaeffer, and another $7 million gift from one of its music professors, the violinist Alice Schoenfeld. 

The Schaeffer gift will endow the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. Schoenfeld's gift will endow a scholarship fund for USC students studying violin and cello. 

USC is not the only school that has received large gifts from faculty members. But professors aren't typically seen as top prospects by development offices. Professors tend to be the poor people on campuses — poorer than many of the students they teach and certainly than alumni who have gone into lucrative fields like finance. 

Still, academia is not an uncommon career choice for independently wealthy heirs — who have the luxury to focus on the life of the mind rather than making money. (Alexander Soros, George's son, is currently getting a Ph.D. in history at UC Berkeley and plans to teach.) 

Figuring out which faculty members are rich shouldn't be all that hard for university development offices. That kind of personal information tends to get around. Beyond the grapevine, one obvious tool are campaign finance records, which conveniently list the institutional affiliations of all political donors. (For example, Harvard employees made $2.4 million in donations in 2012, with a number of faculty members giving the legal maximum.)

Of course, there is also Zillow.