University Professor as Donor: A Case Study at Villanova

We write a lot about the ways in which alumni get pulled into various causes at their alma maters. There are also plenty of cases in which non-alums become big donors at colleges and universities, perhaps motivated by personal history in a region and, over time, making connections within a school. But what about university professors giving big to the schools where they teach? What might this look like and what are the lessons we can take away from this kind of giving?

Related - Rich Profs Are Endowing Their Own Universities

We've reported on a few of these cases over the past year, and now another has popped up: Villanova University School of Business Professor Robert L. Nydick—along with his wife, Susan, and two sons—recently gave $2 million to Villanova as part of the school's $600 million capital campaign. The gift will establish the Nydick Family Business Analytics Fund, and create the Nydick Family Commons on the business school's campus.

Nydick received his Bachelor of Science in Operations Research from Philadelphia University, before going on went on to earn a master's from University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from Temple University. So he's not an alum, but his two sons attended Villanova business school. Moreover, Nydick has been teaching at the business school since 1987.

Here we hit our first lesson: While we're all aware that alums can be motivated by warm feelings about a school that gave them their start, that can be an even stronger motivator for a professor who's been working at the place for many years. 

In the case of Nydick, he's been teaching at the school for nearly three decades, and currently teaches courses on business analytics, data mining, business decision making, and simulation. He's also received several awards while teaching at Villanova, including  the Lindback Award for Teaching Excellence. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, his class traveled to the region to assist in disaster relief, a tradition that lasted seven years. 

In other words, Nydick not only has a long relationship with the school, but also a very close one. Professors, unlike alumni, are in direct contact with a school on a nearly daily basis, interacting with students and interfacing with administrators. Professors also have a broad perspective on the school that doesn't come from the "top down." Nydick has had nearly thirty years on the ground at Villanova. 

In the past, Nydick and his wife have given to other Philadelphia area institutions including Philadelphia University and Chestnut Hill College. This large gift of $2 million, however, involved the Nydick family, serving as a reminder that these kinds of gifts might require all hands on deck.

It's also worth noting that the gift took place during a capital campaign, when universities really beat the bushes, looking for every source of support. Villanova found just that in one of their most prominent professors and his family.

The Nydick Family Business Analytics Fund marks the single largest donation to Villanova in support of business analytics. The fund will support faculty research, recruitment, and retention.

It's not clear to us why the Nydick family has enough spare cash to make a gift of this size. But, as we often point out, there are a lot of rich people around these days, and more family money is passed down every year. Chances are good that any large university may have a faculty member or two sitting on a good chunk of wealth.