MIT lands $350M – Competition yields record gift

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — An unusual competition among seven universities resulted in a $350 million gift to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – believed to be the largest donation ever to a U.S. university.

The gift from computer-industry billionaire Patrick J. McGovern and his wife, Lore Harp McGovern, will be paid over 20 years to create and support a new institute on brain research.

The couple said their close ties to the school were key to their decision, The Wall Street Journal reports.

McGovern, 62, ranked 132nd in Forbes Magazine’s 1999 list of the 400 richest Americans, the Journal reports. His fortune of $1.8 billion is built on International Data Group in Boston, which he founded and chairs.

The company owns 290 publications in 80 countries, including Computerworld, PC World and CIO magazine. It also publishes the “For Dummies” series of how-to books and had 1999 revenue of $2.56 billion.

Lore Harp McGovern is an entrepreneur and technology investor.

The gift is the latest in a series of record-setting donations to colleges in the U.S., the Journal says. Three months ago, for example, software billionaire Kenan Sahin pledged $100 million to MIT, the university’s largest previous gift, kicking off the school’s five-year $1.5 billion fundraising campaign.

McGovern said he and his wife developed the idea of a brain institute three years ago and then consulted a group of prominent scientists.

The couple then solicited 20-page proposals from MIT, Columbia University, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology and the Berkeley, San Diego and San Francisco campuses of the University of California.

That businesslike approach could reinforce a tgrend toward “strategic philanthropy” – weighing options to deterine where a gift will have the biggest impact, Charles Collier, a senior philanthropic adviser at Harvard University, told the Journal.

After visiting each school, McGovern selected MIT because it agreed to finance part of the projected $74 million cost of the new buildingn for the center and because it has a successful biomedical research institute, the Whitehead Institute, to serve as a model.

He is an MIT alumnus and trustee and his wife is chairman of the Whitehead board of associates.

McGovern pledged to give $5 million – one-fourth of the institute’s projected budget – every year for 20 years, with annual adjustments for inflation in higher education.

He then will endow the institute with an amount 20 times higher than his final year’s gift.

The total value will amount to $350 million if inflation averages 4 percent, and $415 million if inflation averages 5 percent, the Journal reports.

McGovern says he has more than $500 million in liquid reserves. In the event of his death, he has established a charitable trust to carry out his commitment to MIT.

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