Drexel University President John A. Fry today announced a record $45 million gift from financier and corporate executive Bennett S. LeBow toward construction of a new academic center for the College of Business, which was named in LeBow’s honor in 1999.
The gift is the largest donation to Drexel from a single donor and the largest by an alumni benefactor. LeBow, who received a Drexel degree in electrical engineering in 1960, has now committed a total of $60 million to Drexel. Including the new gift, he has donated $55 million to the College of Business. He has also supported Drexel’s College of Engineering with a $5 million gift for the state-of-the-art LeBow Engineering Center.
LeBow, a native of West Philadelphia, described his newest gift of $45 million – the 12th-largest single gift ever awarded to a U.S. business school – as a ringing endorsement of the business school and its accomplishments. He made his first gift of $10 million in 1999; since then LeBow College’s stature has risen steadily nationally and internationally.
“Drexel’s College of Business is one of the best investments I ever made,” LeBow said. “In 10 short years, the school has vaulted into the rankings of national leaders among MBA and entrepreneurship programs and is recognized for the strong experiential learning opportunities it provides to undergraduates. I could not be happier with the return on investment from my initial gift.”
Drexel’s President Fry praised LeBow for his commitment to helping prepare future generations of students to assume leadership roles in an increasingly complex world. “Ben LeBow understands better than anyone that today’s students require an education that combines traditional disciplines and connects the discovery of knowledge with solving real-world problems,” Fry said. “At Drexel, we do that better than anyone.”
LeBow’s new gift will support construction of a 12-story, $92 million academic center for the College of Business, replacing Matheson Hall, which was built in 1965. Demolition of Matheson Hall is scheduled to begin late summer of 2011, with the new building opening in 2014.
George P. Tsetsekos, the R. John Chapel, Jr. Dean of the LeBow College of Business, said the state-of-the-art facility will continue strengthening faculty research, student learning and the nourishment of a community consisting of faculty, students, alumni and business leaders from across the nation and around the world. The building will help unite faculty, students and staff now housed in four locations throughout Drexel’s main campus.
“Ben’s first gift enabled us to transform LeBow College into a national leader in MBA and entrepreneurship programs,” Tsetsekos said. “Our new building will keep us on a trajectory toward becoming one of America’s top business schools.”
Since LeBow’s $10 million gift in 1999, the business school has constructed one building for teaching, the Pearlstein Business Learning Center, designed by Philip Johnson; launched full-time, online and corporate MBA programs; and grown its student enrollment in both size and quality. About 70 percent of today’s full-time faculty joined LeBow College within the past 10 years, and the school created five centers: Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship, Center for Corporate Governance, Sovereign Institute for Strategic Leadership, Center for Corporate Reputation Management, and the Krall Center for Corporate and Executive Education.
LeBow College is one of only 25 percent of U.S. business schools to be accredited and ranked. Its programs have been rated among the nation’s best by Financial Times, BusinessWeek, Princeton Review, Entrepreneur magazine and others. This past academic year, LeBow College recorded its first Fulbright Scholarship; Kent Troutman, a 2010 graduate in finance, is conducting research on interest rate fluctuations in China.
“Our new building will be an incubator of knowledge, a gathering place for business leaders, and a high-energy home for scholars, students and executives working together to solve problems and create opportunities,” Tsetsekos said. “The hallmark of business education at Drexel is experiential learning. A new and beautiful building will help us to better connect with the Philadelphia business communities and allow our students to learn in a setting that is less like a classroom and more like the corporate environment.”
The new building will feature a finance trading lab, 300-seat auditorium, five-story atrium, special areas for experiential learning simulations and business consulting, videoconferencing capabilities and a recording studio to support LeBow College’s online programs. Also included are extensive areas for students to gather socially and for collaborative study. The structure will be Green Globe certifiable, meeting worldwide sustainability standards. The exterior will be constructed of a limestone similar to that used in the nearby iconic 30th Street Train Station and the former U.S. Post Office.
“My Drexel education was the catalyst to my professional success,” LeBow said. “I know first-hand the passion and hunger in LeBow College to provide a superior education for its students, and I am delighted to do what I can to make its vision a reality: to be recognized as one of America’s premier business schools.”
LeBow, who received an honorary doctoral degree from Drexel in 1998, made his reputation as a turnaround specialist, investing in struggling companies that a less bold businessman might have avoided. Through restructuring and smart management, his Brooke Group Ltd. resuscitated enterprises in industries as wide-ranging as jewelry, real estate and sports collectibles. He currently is chairman of the board of Borders Group, an international bookseller based in Ann Arbor, Mich., and chairman of the board of Vector Group Ltd., a private equity firm that has focused on real estate and tobacco products.
Since its founding in 1891, Drexel University has distinguished itself by emphasizing experiential learning in its curriculum through its cooperative education program. Each year 1,300 companies in 30 states and 25 international locations choose Drexel students to work within their organizations, fulfilling their hiring needs, while offering students critical real-world experience to jumpstart their careers. Drexel is the nation’s 14th largest private university and is ranked second among national universities in the U.S. News& World Report list of “Up-and-Comers.”