B School Life

Utah's Eccles School Gets $13 Million Gift


Eccles Dean Randall (left), donor Jim Lee Sorenson (center), and University of Utah President David Pershing

Photograph Courtesy University of Utah

Eccles Dean Randall (left), donor Jim Lee Sorenson (center), and University of Utah President David Pershing

The son of Utah’s one-time richest man has donated $13 million to the state’s flagship business school. The gift from Jim Lee Sorenson, son of the late James LeVoy Sorenson, ties for the third-largest single donation ever made to the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business, the school announced on Tuesday.

The money will establish a center for global impact investing named after Jim Lee Sorenson. In this category of investing, social or environmental returns join financial ones as objectives. Students at the center will “provide mentoring, conduct due diligence and perform market research” for nonprofits and foundations seeking management advice, Sorenson says. The project may also link social-enterprise startups with potential investors.

“We’re being super-aggressive in our aspirations,” says Eccles Dean Taylor Randall of the international clientele he hopes the center will attract.

To date, Randall says, Eccles students have done impact-investing work for the Dell Social Innovation Challenge and Village Capital. The new center will occupy a building on campus that was completed last year and was funded in part by a separate $4.5 million donation made by Jim Lee Sorenson in 2010. The new money will endow two professorships, create roughly $120,000 per year in scholarships to be distributed to up to 34 graduate and undergraduate students as early as this fall, and help launch a minor in impact investing.

Jim Lee Sorenson received his bachelor’s degree from the Eccles School in 1975 and went on to found Sorenson Media, a cloud computing company in Draper, Utah. He later became chairman of Mediconnect Global, a medical records firm in South Jordan, Utah, that was sold to Verisk Analytics (VRSK) for $348.6 million in March. His father was an inventor and entrepreneur with a long list of innovations to his name, including disposable surgical masks and the computerized heart monitor. He also made a fortune investing in real estate, uranium claims, and mining stocks.

Sorenson’s most recent donation brings his total gifts to the Eccles school to $23.5 million. The largest single donation the school has ever received is $17.5 million provided by the George S. & Dolores Dore Eccles Foundation.

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Zlomek is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New York.

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