Businessman Adds to Ed. School Donations
When Raymond Neag decided it was time to donate part of his fortune to the University of Connecticut, he passed up the political science department, where he earned a degree in 1956.
He also ignored the school's business and medical programs, though he had become wealthy manufacturing medical equipment.
Instead, Mr. Neag donated $21 million to the school of education--a contribution that observers say is likely the largest donation ever to a teacher-training program and is part of a larger trend in giving to promote teacher quality
The state of Connecticut has pledged to match part of the gift, promising the public university's school of education in Storrs an additional $4.8 million.
Mr. Neag pledged an additional $2 million for the university's medical center.
"Education is an area that has been neglected," Mr. Neag, the vice chairman of Arrow International Inc., based in Reading, Pa., said in an interview last week. "People have given to cancer and diabetes research, but it seemed to me that education, which is so important and deserving, hasn't received that kind of treatment."
Mr. Neag's gift is the third large donation to a teacher-training program this academic year. Barbara and Roger Rossier of Orange, Calif., donated $20 million to the University of Southern California's education school in September. And just last month, investment mogul Peter Lynch and his wife, Carolyn, of Boston, donated more than $10 million to Boston College's school of education.
The USC donation will be used for teacher training and research; the Boston College gift will go toward teacher training, scholarships, and research.
Those three significant donations signal a shift in education giving, said Arthur Levine, the president of Teachers College, Columbia University.
"We're seeing millions and millions of dollars come out for teacher quality," Mr. Levine said. "After a decade and a half of partnerships and foundations in support of a cornucopia of efforts, they're looking for a venue to make a difference."
Most of Mr. Neag's donation, given last month, will be used to recruit nationally known education scholars, provide need-based scholarships and graduate assistantships, and aid community-outreach partnerships, said Richard Schwab, the dean of the University of Connecticut school of education. The remainder of the donation will be used for the education school's health and wellness program.
"I can't tell you how many tears of pride there were," Mr. Schwab said of the announcement. "This is one of the first times there was affirmation of being a teacher and educator."
The contribution wasn't Mr. Neag's first to the education school. In 1996, he donated $1.5 million to endow a chair for gifted and talented education, a pet project of his niece and her husband, both of whom teach at the university.
The education school there is considered one of the best on the East Coast and was ranked 37th out of 191 top schools of education by U.S. News & World Report last year.
Teacher-educators said last week they were thrilled about the Neag donation and even more excited about the prospect of a new generation of philanthropists interested in funding teacher training.
Gifts to universities typically have gone to law schools, medical schools, business programs, and other high-profile departments, with schools of education receiving few large donations. But as policymakers and the public have become more interested in education, contributions to education schools have begun to increase.
"A number of foundations have decided the arena for funding in school improvement will be teacher education," Mr. Levine said. "Individual [donors] are very, very interested in teacher education."
Allen Glenn, the president of the University of Washington in Seattle and a past president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, said: "It is difficult for colleges of education to raise big dollars because our graduates work in one of the lowest-paid professions. Often a big gift--usually around a million dollars--comes as the result of a teacher marrying someone in business or some other high-paying profession."
But as more national attention focuses on the quality of education, more and more philanthropists are looking at teacher-training programs.
"Schools that are able to demonstrate they are making a difference in education are reaping some of the benefits," said Patricia Jackson, the vice president of the Washington-based Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, a nonprofit group that helps colleges devise fund-raising strategies.
"Part of it," she said, "is that corporations are recognizing that it is in their best interest to help invest in the education of their workforces."
Vol. 18, Issue 26, Page 3