On Wednesday, the USC Marshall School of Business announced a $4 million gift from alumnus Michael R. B. Uytengsu.
The gift will allow for the establishment of the Michael R. B. Uytengsu Endowed Scholarship Fund, and because of the donation, the university will name the first floor of Jill and Frank Fertitta Hall after Uytengsu.
Fertitta Hall is the future home of Marshall’s undergraduate program and will feature state-of-the-art classrooms dedicated to its undergraduate students. There will be experiential learning centers, an interactive library, a cafe and 50 collaboration rooms to help accommodate the group work that is required by business school students. Construction will begin next month and be completed by the fall of 2016.
Uytengsu began his career in investment banking at Salomon Brothers in New York, followed by a stint in Hong Kong and then decided to switch gears and join his family’s food business in 1993. His background as an investment banker allowed him to lead a wide array of successful consolidation and restructuring efforts in the U.S. snack food industry, which contributed to his financial success.
He was also instrumental in forming the privately held National Pretzel following a merger between Sunshine Biscuits and the Keebler Company. National Pretzel was then in turn sold to Con Agra Foods in 2011. Even though financial terms of the deal were not disclosed at the time, National Pretzel had net sales approaching $200 million in the same year.
Michael Wratschko II, a first-year graduate student studying business, noted that the donation makes Uytengsu a role model for all business students.
“Uytengsu’s gift typifies his commitment to academics, philanthropy and the Trojan community,” Wratschko said. “He has provided a road map for other Trojans to follow.”
Michael Uytengsu isn’t the only in his family to make a sizeable gift to the university lately. His brother Fred Uytengsu, a former student athlete and graduate of the class of ’83, gifted $8 million to help build the new aquatic center on McClintock Avenue, now known as the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.
That gift was the largest in school history made to the athletics department from a former student-athlete. The new Aquatics Center now houses the USC men’s and women’s swimming, diving and water polo teams.
Michael Uytengsu noted that his time spent at USC provided him with the necessary tools for his future accomplishments.
“The education I received at Marshall gave me a strong foundation for success … My family believes in the importance of giving back and in making a difference for students who are eager for an education but may not have the means to access it,” Michael Uytengsu said in a university press release.
Both Uytengsus received co-entrepreneur of the Year and Alumni of the Year awards from the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies last year. Michael is now a part of a new business, Somersault Snack Company, and a founding partner of the Tusk Estates Winery in Napa Valley, Calif. He has pledged to donate 1 percent of the equity from Somersault to USC.
“If all USC alumni who own businesses would contribute a portion of their profits to the school, the students and the alumni would both benefit immensely,” Uytengsu said.
Jake Kelfer, a junior majoring in business administration, reflected on the strong sense of support when it came to alumni such as Uytengsu giving back to the university.
“The donation from Uytengsu embodies the meaning of the Trojan Family,” Kelfer said. “His donation will serve as a foundation of growth for future Trojans and help them develop into the business leaders of the next generation.”
Uytengsu’s gift marked the second such gift in April for the Marshall School, the first being that of William J. McMorrow which established a Global Real Estate Program at Marshall.
Vice Dean Deborah MacInnis discussed the trend of seven-figure donations received by the Marshall School this month.
“We have a truly inspiring dean in Dean Ellis who is constantly on the road meeting people, conveying the extraordinary accomplishments of our Marshall students [and] really motivating donors to give deeply,” MacInnis said. “Our alumni have been a major part of the fundraising efforts which has, in turn, allowed us to increase our stature and reputation as a top ranked business school.”