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The Anderson school at UCLA has received its largest ever donation, of $100m, from Los Angeles resident Marion Anderson. The school is already named in honour of her late husband and undergraduate alumnus John, following an initial gift made by the couple in 1987.

With the most recent gift, the couple has donated $142m to the business school.

Business school donations are frequently seen as an indicator of economic optimism and growth in the US and Anderson’s announcement, along with two other large donations in recent weeks, is no exception.

In April, the business school at Anderson’s California neighbour, the University of San Diego, received $100m from the Rady family. As in the case of the Anderson family, the Rady family had already given substantial funds as a naming gift to the school.

A week earlier, the business school at Boston University announced that it would change its name to the Questrom school following the donation of $40m by retired retail executive Allen Questrom and his wife Kelli. Combined with the $10m given to the business school by Mr Questrom in 2012, that donation also represented the largest gift ever to Boston University.

The announcement of the $100m Anderson gift has been used to formally launch the school’s next fund-raising drive, in which dean Judy Olian hopes to raise $300m. Pledges of $183m have already been received by the school.

Ms Anderson’s donation follows the change in status of the business school in July 2014, to give it more flexibility in its appointment of academics and clarify its financial status. “People thought we were being supported by the state in a way it couldn’t afford,” says Prof Olian.

It is a message that is echoed in Ms Anderson’s decision to further donate to the school. “UCLA Anderson has adopted an innovative financial model that depends on private giving,” she says. “I hope my gift will inspire others to join me and my family in making significant philanthropic investments in UCLA Anderson and UCLA, and in future generations of students and faculty.”

Of the $100m Anderson gift, $60m will be used to establish an endowment to support financial aid, fellowships and research. The remaining $40m will provide seed funding for a new building.

Ms Anderson is chair of Topa Equities which operates businesses in numerous sectors, including agriculture, insurance and real estate.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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