At a Historic Moment on Campus, a Reliable Donor Steps Forward With a Big Gift

Timing matters in education giving. We've said it before and we'll say it again. I've often written about the ways in which donors are motivated to give big at the start of a campaign or at the end, in order to get the campaign started on the right foot, or end it with a big bang. Of course, these aren't the only circumstances where timing comes into play.

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Consider, for instance, University of Miami's recent inauguration of its sixth president, Julio Frenk. Born in Mexico City, Frenk received an MD from National University of Mexico, and also a master of public health and a joint Ph.D. in medical care organization and in sociology from University of Michigan. Frenk has held a number of high-ranking positions over the years, including minister of health of Mexico, and executive director in charge of evidence and information for policy at the World Health Organization.

On the higher education front, Frenk was dean of the faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health, before going on to become, last August, UMiami's sixth president—the university's first Hispanic president, by the way, which is a big deal in Miami. (Long ago, the school barred students of color from entry, like many universities in the South.) 

At Frenk's historic inauguration a few weeks ago, he spoke on issues such as diversity and innovation. Oh, and he also announced news of a big $100 million gift by billionaire couple Phillip and Patricia Frost to support basic and applied science and engineering, fields in which, as Frenk puts it, “any university striving for excellence must have depth."

The Frosts are already considered one of University of Miami's top donors. In 2003, the couple gave a $33 million gift to create the Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music. Timing should be considered in that gift, too, as it came just as UMiami kicked off its Momentum Campaign. This time around, the billionaire healthcare investor and wife came together with UMiami just in time for its new president to announce a huge gift.

It's also worth talking about how both Phillip Frost and Julio Frenk were trained as doctors, and the fact that the $100 million is going toward STEM efforts. So far, it's unclear what, exactly, the money will fund, but the fact that UMiami and the Frosts have come together to focus on this issue at this important moment shows once again how STEM has become a top philanthropic issue in higher education and beyond.

Student musicians from the Frost School of Music performed at the inauguration, which fits with the whole story too.