The Donor Behind a Big Business School Gift at University of Vermont

University of Vermont recently received a $20 million gift that will rename its business school in honor of donor Steven Grossman, class of 1961. The money will fund three endowed academic positionsthe Steven Grossman Chairs in Entrepreneurship, Finance, and Sustainable Businessas well as provide resources to support teaching and program priorities. The gift comes just before University of Vermont's public launch of its $500 million fundraising campaign, which runs through June 2019. Grossman sits on the board of directors of his alma mater, and has supported the school in the past.

I've written before about businessmen and businesswomen who've given big to their alma maters or other business schools. Teasing out these donor profiles is useful. Who, then, is Grossman, and what other philanthropy has he been involved with over the years?

Related: Why Did This Female Entrepreneur Drop Big Bucks on a B-School She Never Attended? 

Well, Grossman earned a B.S. from the University of Vermont in 1961. He joined his father in the family’s corrugated manufacturing business, Southern Container Corp., and in 1987, he was appointed CEO. Grossman held this position until the company was sold in 2008.

On the philanthropic end, meanwhile, Grossman moves his philanthropy through the Grossman Family Foundation, which held some $155 million in assets in 2014 and gave away around $7.6 million. Prior years have also indicated a sizeable asset base and steady giving. However, getting a full handle on Grossman's philanthropy is difficult because much of his money moves through a donor-advised fund at National Philanthropic Trust. In fact, in 2014, all $7.6 million of the foundation's grantmaking was channeled into National Philanthropic Trust. The same story holds for the $7.2 million that went out the door in 2013. However, the foundation's 2010 990 indicated that Grossman did disperse a handful of grants to outfits such as Achievement First and St. Benedict's Preperatory School. A large grant of close to $5 million also went to Fairfield County Community Foundation in 2010. Grossman also helped launch an early literacy center at Norwalk Public Schools in Connecticut.

With a multigenerational background in business, then, and a definite interest in education, Grossman's large gift to his alma mater makes sense. Grossman's philanthropy has tended to be focused on the northeast, particularly Fairfield County, Connecticut. Foundation Executive Director Linda Franciscovich is a board member of Connecticut Council for Philanthropy.