UVa Rotunda

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business announced the largest gift in its history Thursday, a $68 million donation from investor and alumnus Frank M. Sands Sr.

When combined with matching funds, the gift has $82 million in total impact and will be used to fund a new lifelong learning program, professorships, conference center and renovations of Alumni Hall. It will close out a second record year of giving for the Darden School, according to Dean Scott Beardsley.

“It just emerged organically,” Beardsley said of the donation and his relationship with Sands, who served on the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees when Beardsley was hired.

UVa already has programs for executive education and lifelong learning, but $20 million of the gift will go to endow the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning in honor of Sands’ late wife, Marjorie Sands, according to information provided by the university.

The institute aims to help faculty redesign and innovate courses, curricula and programs that will serve students across all phases of their business careers.

It will seek to determine best practices for teaching lifelong learners and working with executives in both degree and non-degree programs. The gift also includes an investment in Darden’s portfolio of online courses that will extend the school’s reach and impact globally.

“As Mr. Sands very appropriately put it, the basis of lifelong learning is having a lifelong faculty, and you have to invest in their ability to teach,” Beardsley said.

The gift is also the latest in high-profile, big-dollar donations to university business schools in recent years, including $150 million to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 and $400 million to Harvard Business School in 2015.

It’s certainly easier to raise money now than in 2007, said Beardsley, who ended the fiscal year of 2018 with a record $40 million in new donor commitments and said Sands’ gift will make this year top the last. UVa is in the quiet phase of a fundraising campaign that hopes to raise $5 billion across the university by 2025.

In addition to the lifelong learning institute, Sands’ gift will create:

» A $35 million Sands Professorship Fund, composed of a $21 million donation from Sands plus $14 million in matching funds from the Bicentennial Professors Fund. The fund will support 12 new faculty chairs — four named to honor distinguished professors and eight to support emerging scholars.

» A $20 million fund for the construction of the new UVa Inn at Darden and Conference Center for Lifelong Learning in Charlottesville, estimated to cost $90 million. The effort to construct a 199-room hotel and conference center with an arboretum recently was announced and is expected to be completed in 2020. Pending Board of Visitors approval, the inn will be named after Sands.

» A $7 million fund to help renovate the C. Ray Smith Alumni Hall, which is named in honor of Dean Emeritus C. Ray Smith, who mentored Sands.

In 2017, Sands and his son, Frank Sands, donated $5 million toward Darden’s new campus in Rosslyn. The campus occupies two floors of a high-rise building and offers executive MBA courses. The space opened for classes in 2018.

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Ruth Serven Smith is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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