$85 Million Will Buy You Nothing at the University of Wisconsin

Michael Knetter may just go down in history as one of the greatest fundraisers of all time. Knetter is the dean of the Wisconsin Business School. Other universities have managed to raise substantial amounts of money by naming their business schools after generous donors (think Carlson, Tuck, Goizueta, Sloan, etc.). But Knetter did something far more impressive. He managed to raise $85 million in return for promising not to name the school for the next 20 years. A bunch of boosters liked the fact that the school is simply called the “University of Wisconsin Business School,” and they were willing to pay to keep it that way, at least for 20 years.

As one of my colleagues pointed out, it probably would have been a lot cheaper for the boosters just to bribe the Wisconsin legislature to pass a bill preventing the naming of the business school, although that strategy would not have gotten them many positive headlines.

Apparently, Knetter is now offering a full slate of objects not to name at the business school. For $50,000, you can have a classroom not named after you. For $5,000, you can not have your name on a plaque in the entryway to the building. For those of you with a little less to give, $50 will guarantee that the urinal of your choice will go unnamed. But only for the next 20 years.


Sam Zell should do this with Wrigley Field.
Ask the fans to pay to keep the name.


So, let's say that you do not donate $50 to keep the urinal unnamed...At what point do they say "ok, no buyers, time to name this after the highest donor"?

I'm serious. This is really just a gimic, unless there is a possibility of the item being named after a donor.

UW grad

Sam Zell should do this with Wrigley Field.
ask the fans to pay to retain the name.

Isaac Walters

As a current Wisconsin Business student, I love the fact that this brings the idea of naming something more in-line with naming in the corporate world. The Staples Center in LA will only remain the Staples Center as long as Staples is willing to pay for that right. Why should a business school short change themselves of millions of dollars of potential revenue by giving something in perpetuity for $50 million that will be forth $150 million in 15 years.


The purpose of not just naming the school the "University of Wisconsin School of Business" was to treat naming the school as an option. The value of this option will be far greater 20 years from now giving the school the opportunity to cash in on it if need be or renew the option for another 20 years.


#12, sometimes a name can sound more prestigious. Sometimes not. Depends on who the person is.

The Buffett School of Business has a nice ring to it.

The Spitzer Womens' Residence Hall - not so much.

U of C GSB doesn't have a namesake. Harvard Business School doesn't. Kellogg (Northwestern)does. I think Wisconsin is onto something here. Donations without strings.

K. Branch

As alum of the Wisconsin School of Business and a marketing/branding professional, I couldn't be prouder to have Wisconsin be the namesake of my now better funded alma mater.


Bob, was that really worth posting?


Is it just me, or does a business school named after a large donor sound MORE prestigious?

Eric G

#5 - was this really worth commenting on?

Eric G

In recognition, the University should name a building after Knetter or something.


Bob (#5): Well, it appears you think it's worth commenting about...


Reminds me of the public TV stations I've heard about which have "pre-pledge-week" fund drives which knock time off of their "pledge weeks." (Would be nice if my local PBS station did that, but they won't.) I wonder how effective this is? Do they actually raise more money this way, or not?


Was this really worth writing about?


Very clever. A nice counter to the "I want a plaque on the wall" mentality. From churches to universities to boy scout camps, it's easier to raise money to build a wall with a name plaque on it than to get funding to keep that wall in good repair.

Jonathan Gray

I think this is a bit more clever because a.) it's gimmicky and b.) it gives the school flexibility so that 20 years from now they can re-evaluate their financial needs and name the school after a person if they desire.

On a side note, I attend a state university law school and they've actually published a brochure online of the cost of having any number of parts of the school named after the donor. It's an interesting insight into what it costs to buy academic recognition.


Why not give $85 million dollars and NAME the Business School: "The University of Wisconsin Business School"? Wouldn't that presumably ensure that that name remained for all time?


Simply a stroke of genius! Truly an innovative answer to the reality of decreasing state support and heavier dependence on private sponsorship of the 'business' of public education. Mike Knetter's keen intellect, political moxy and dynamic personality uniquely qualify him to be the new chancellor at UW-Madison.


"Why not give $85 million dollars and NAME the Business School: "The University of Wisconsin Business School"? Wouldn't that presumably ensure that that name remained for all time?

- Posted by AaronS"

Despite the original post, they did, in fact pay to NAME the school the "Wisconsin School of Business", but only for 20 years.

The donors recognized that "naming rights" prices are sky-rocketing and accepted that in 20 years the school may need the possible 200-300 M naming gift, especially if the bottom drops out on state funding.


#27- I'm guessing you have never been to Lambeau Field?