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Couple Carries on the Fellowship Tradition Aided by Matching Fund
A recent generous gift to the Stanford Graduate School of Business encourages the establishment of new student fellowships by leveraging donors' commitments through matching funds. And, in the spirit of giving back to an institution that shaped their lives, the first donors to take advantage of the match are a couple who met at the GSB.
Sara and Bob Lumpkins, MBA '68, established The GSB Fellowship Matching Fund to encourage other alumni and friends of the school to make their own commitments to support students during a time when financial need has increased and MBA degree holders graduate with an average debt load of $78,700. In fiscal year 2011 the school saw an 11 percent increase in indebtedness of graduating students from the prior year and expects this trend could continue.
"Back 40-odd years ago I couldn’t have gone to the GSB without help financially from a former graduate, so I felt a strong obligation to give the same opportunity to the students of today," said Lumpkins, a former Cargill Inc. executive and GSB Advisory Council member. "To me, opportunity is such an important word and an important concept, and I just feel like I’ve been blessed and feel it's so important to give the opportunity to others to realize their potential."
Lumpkins and his wife, Sara, previously endowed The Lumpkins Family Fellowship Fund, and they also have made commitments to The Dean's Fund, the Center for Leadership Development and Research, and the funds to honor Professor James Van Horne and former Dean Robert Joss.
Alexander and Christine Seaver, who fell in love while they were students at the GSB, saw the establishment of a fellowship as a natural way to continue their history of engagement with the school. In the past the couple has supported The Dean’s Fund and The Stanford Investors Fund, which honors finance Professor John "Jack" McDonald, in whose class Alex regularly speaks. They also have served as reunion volunteers.
"The relationships we both formed here are lifelong, and that's both at the school itself with faculty and with the students. Christine and I have stayed close with a great group of people we think are terrific," says Alex Seaver, MBA '86, managing director of Stadium Capital Management in New Canaan, Conn. "For us, the entire ecosystem has been important. We both benefited from financial help while we were at the school from people who came before us. I think that's the way it works—you've got to pay it forward and pay it back."
The Alexander and Christine Noyer Seaver Fellowship Fund will support both MBA and PhD students at the school. The gift will earn $100,000 from the Lumpkins' matching fund, bringing the fellowship total to $300,000. In addition, as a component of the match, the Seavers also made a gift of $50,000 toward an unrestricted fund. Donors who wish to take advantage of the matching funds direct a part of their commitment toward unrestricted support, which serves as a critical annual resource for the school.
"The ability for the best students that Stanford can get to attend, whether they can afford it themselves or not, is what makes the institution great," says Christine Seaver, MBA '86. "The school has done an incredible job in bringing together for-profit and nonprofit sectors to do social innovation around the world. Those sectors and the people who come from those have less access, so the school is really trying to reach out to help the people who will make the GSB a special place but who may not be able to afford to attend."
Opening doors is a concept near to Bob Lumpkins' heart as well. He serves on four boards, including the board of trustees of Howard University, a historically black university. He grew up in the South seeing what he calls "the ugliest days of the civil rights struggle" and, as a result, has a record of providing education and career opportunities to people from minority backgrounds. Back in 2006, John Russ, MBA '08, an African American prospective student, was leaning toward attending Harvard Business School over the GSB. But then he got a call from Lumpkins that changed his mind. As the two talked, it came out that Lumpkins had recruited Russ' late father to join Cargill and was his first boss there. However, when he placed the call to the prospective student, Lumpkins had no idea who he was.
"If it wasn't for his action, my life, and the opportunities my family has benefited from, would have been totally different," says Russ. "This struck me in a powerful way, but Bob said that he was just doing what he believed in, simply living out a sense of purpose through business that he had learned at Stanford. What he had walked away from Stanford with was a sense that business is not just about business. It is about impact and people and the strength of organizations to effect change."
Financial aid awarded to MBA and PhD students is generated in part from endowed fund sources. However, given the economic climate, the school has increasingly had to fund student fellowships from the annual operating budget, which provides expendable dollars for financial aid. Establishing a new fund that provides matching funds encourages fellow alumni and friends to invest in this important need. Matching funds enable donors to leverage their commitments to attract the best and brightest students to the GSB with the freedom to pursue a broader range of career options after graduation and follow their true passions, including non-traditional paths, with fewer financial constraints.