ST. PAUL - A $50 million donation for promising business majors is the lead gift in a University of St. Thomas fundraising campaign that aims to raise $200 million for student scholarships.
President Julie Sullivan said the gift from the estate of commercial real estate developer Gerald Rauenhorst fits her top fundraising priority of pushing down the cost of attendance.
Over the next eight years, St. Thomas hopes to double its $150 million scholarships endowment while raising an additional $50 million to be distributed more quickly.
The St. Paul-based Catholic school's tuition and fees this year are $41,133. Students who take out federal loans leave the school owing an average of $26,000, government data show.
"I think scholarships are going to make the difference," Sullivan said.
Rauenhorst graduated from St. Thomas in 1948 with an economics degree. His Opus Group later designed or built 22 university buildings, including its entire Minneapolis campus.
In life and death, Rauenhorst has been a major donor for both St. Thomas and St. Catherine University, his wife Henrietta's alma mater. Rauenhorst died in 2014, four years after his wife.
The $50 million gift comes through the GHR Foundation, which has $495 million in assets and paid out $21.5 million in grants last year. Its philanthropy mainly benefits Catholic education, humanitarian aid and research on aging.
Foundation CEO Amy Rauenhorst Goldman said the rest of her parents' personal wealth soon will be added to the foundation, roughly doubling its assets and annual giving.
The $50 million endowed scholarship will cover the full cost of four years of tuition and fees for 15 GHR Fellows in each St. Thomas class, starting with fall 2019.
Applicants must have a high school grade-point average of 3.7 or higher and an ACT score of 28 and enter the university's undergraduate business program.
Besides a free education, the fellows will get career coaching and networking opportunities and spend a month studying abroad.
St. Thomas and the foundation spent more than a year designing the fellowship. Rauenhorst Goldman said they wanted to raise the university's profile and encourage others to give.
"We really want to have this gift inspire other gifts," she said.
The fellowship is based on merit, but Rauenhorst Goldman said first-generation students will get preference. Financially needy fellows can also get grants for room and board.
Sullivan said there is no target for how much of the $200 million campaign will go toward need-based grants as opposed to merit-based.
"That'll be primarily up to our donors," she said.
The school kicked off the campaign Thursday at the Anderson Student Center, a product of their largest single gift of $60 million from Lee Anderson and his wife, Penny, in 2007. The GHR Foundation gift is the largest ever for student scholarships at a Minnesota college.
Jack Stanchfield, a sophomore business student from Edina, appreciates the school's focus on scholarships. He gets $9,000 each semester in financial aid and his parents paid for one semester of tuition, but he's taking out loans for the rest.
"A lot of times, money is an issue rather than picking the school that's best for you," he said.
Still, the announcement was met with grumbling from some students who tire of their university's emphasis on its business programs.
Sophomore Chioma Uwagwu spoke with Sullivan after the event about what she described as the school's neglect of fine arts facilities.
"If we're not paying attention to the arts, are we a liberal arts school?" she said.
The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.