Immortality doesn't come cheap. For $50,000, Chapman University in Orange, Calif., will put your name on an elevator. For $350,000, you can name the scholarship that puts a University of Southern California quarterback through school. Interested in more academic pursuits? A million dollars will get your name on a professorship at the University of California at Los Angeles.
But that's still in the bargain basement range. It took $35 million from the fortune of aerospace company founder Gordon Marshall to persuade USC to name its business school after him. Forty-five million dollars from the Gonda family put their name on UCLA's Neuroscience and Genetics Research Center.
But they have nothing on furnace company founder Henry Rowan. For his $100 million, Glassboro State College in New Jersey was rechristened Rowan College.
Universities and colleges call them naming opportunities. Hand over the cash and you can get almost anything named for you, from a brick to a scholarship to an entire university.
"You name it, we'll name it," said Paul Blodgett, associate vice president for university relations at USC, where a street light goes for $15,000. While contemplating your gift, you can relax at the university on the Allen T. Gilchrist bench. Enjoy it, because it set Gilchrist back about $12,000.
Because of cuts in government aid in recent years, state schools have adopted a much more aggressive attitude toward fund-raising and are using the same tactics as private universities--including an increased emphasis on naming. In response, the California State University system is developing guidelines for naming the schools within each university as the push to find those huge sums of money becomes more insistent.
"That's probably the highest level of recognition a university could give someone," said Harry Gianneschi, vice president for university advancement at California State University at Fullerton. "Buildings come and go, but schools and departments usually stay forever."
And so does the need to find money.
Universities are the size of giant corporations. But instead of pumping out products that bring profits, universities turn out students who cost them far more than their tuition. To make up this huge shortfall, the business of education becomes the business of fund-raising.
And offering to put a donor's name on a building, a professorship or a classroom is the biggest reward a university or college can dangle.
"A thank-you note works well for a $50 donation, but for a $50 million donation you're trying to find something that's more relevant to that size," Gianneschi said.
Multimillion-dollar gifts--tax deductible, of course--are usually the result of years of cultivation and subtle persuasion. "I have never in 25 years had anyone show up and say, 'I'd like my name on something,' " said Jerry Nunnally, vice president for institute relations at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "As we say in the business, first the resources, second the interest and third the inclination, because you need all three to make it work."
The Super Bowl of opportunities is to give one's name to an entire university or college. The price has been going up since wealthy English merchant Elihu Yale was persuaded in the early 1700s to send the Collegiate School in New Haven, Conn., several bales of cotton; goods worth 562 pounds, 12 shillings; 417 books; and a portrait of King George I.
A couple of hundred years later, Charles C. Chapman gave $400,000 to found California Christian College, which the Board of Trustees later renamed Chapman College.
Today, there is almost no limit to what can be named. "It depends on the creativity of the development office and the fancy of the donor," said Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel of the American Council on Education.
Walk through any campus and you will see buildings named after educators--such as Reines Hall at the University of California at Irvine, for a Nobel Prize winner--or the people who contributed the money to build them--such as Avery House at the California Institute of Technology, named for Stan Avery, the founder of Avery Dennison Corp., who donated $15 million.
"I would say in most cases it's important for the individual because this somehow becomes an important statement about their lives," USC's Blodgett said.
Paulina June Pollak said the chance to have the library at Cal State Fullerton named after her and her husband helped persuade the couple to donate $1 million. "We have no children," said the retired English professor, "so it was sort of a way for our names to continue."
Sometimes splashing someone's name on a facility can lead to even more money. Lawyer James E. Rogers donated $50 million last year to the College of Law at the University of Arizona. A few days later, the trustees renamed the school in his honor--and in return Rogers more than doubled his gift.
Where a university can really leverage fund-raising is with a new building. Not only does the building itself present a major fund-raising opportunity, but there are halls, classrooms, institutes, rare book rooms, courtyards and centers--all begging for names.
Take the East Asian Library and Study Center that the University of California at Berkeley is planning. For $15 million, you can name the building. For $10 million, you can name the Institute for East Asian Studies inside. The C.V. Starr Library already has gone for $6 million. A seminar room costs $50,000. The building will house centers for Chinese, Korean and Japanese studies and the Department of East Asian Languages, each waiting for someone to plunk down $5 million to $10 million for naming rights.
The university won't even start construction until it raises the $40 million building cost.
Harvard, in the midst of its latest fund-raising campaign, is passing out a shopping list of naming opportunities, ranging from $5,000 for a class endowment account to $5 million for the Fine Arts Library. But the Division of Engineering and Applied Science is taken. Bill Gates and his Microsoft Corp. sidekick Steve Ballmer paid $25 million to name it for their mothers.
Naming rights for a Harvard professorship that cost $2.5 million before the campaign started in 1994 now go for $3.5 million. That bump in price has caught the eye of Stanford University, where such faculty positions go for $2 million to $3 million. "We look at who's charging what for what," said Bob Pringle, Stanford's director of university development.
But not all the people who donate money want something named after them. There are the anti-famous, such as the man who gave UC-Berkeley $5 million anonymously three years ago with the proviso that the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive never take anyone's name. That didn't matter inside the doors, where for $1 million an auditorium became the Gund Theater.